How Gang Starr Helped Make ‘Luke Cage’ A Reflection Of Hip-Hop’s Golden Age

10.05.16 2 years ago 3 Comments

Chrysalis Records/Netflix

Luke Cage crushed all of the buildings the first few days of October. In fact, Power Man was so…well…powerful, he crashed Netflix for a few hours. Not bad for a guy whose show was set to be fourth in line until he blew up thanks to his role in Jessica Jones. Being dope has its rewards.

There are at least a million things in the show worthy of analyzing, but perhaps the most important aspect of the show is the music. It defines the world, it’s the spine that every single limb is attached to, and isn’t just there to sound good. When Ghostface Killah’s “Enemies All Around Me” is cued up during a shootout, it’s an obvious and fitting choice. No doubt, the strongest musical element to the Luke Cage is Gang Starr. The legendary dynamic duo’s music framed the series before a single punch was even thrown with each episode named after one of their songs. Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker is open about taking the idea from Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy but like any good writer, it’s more than just a cute trick.

These episodes aren’t just randomly titled. Each expresses a theme, an idea, or an important plot point. If you’re wondering how, allow me to explain.

1. “Moment of Truth”

This one’s pretty simple. Luke Cage realizes he can’t hide from Harlem anymore because Harlem damn sure isn’t hiding from him. He doesn’t want to be a hero — for hire or otherwise — but he’s finding his “truth.” The episode is filled with different truths from many people: Luke, Cottonmouth, Misty Knight, Mariah Dillard, Pop and even the truth of Harlem itself. Each of the main players on the chessboard have their own way of seeing the world; “Moment Of Truth” is what happens when those viewpoints intersect and each character has to deal with their own “come to Jesus” moments. Whether it’s understanding there’s no hiding from destiny, realizing the people around you aren’t trustworthy, accepting that you can’t save everyone, or how dangerous a seemingly harmless cup of “coffee” can be.

2. “Code of the Streets”

If you’ve seen the episode, this one is obvious. Omar — along with every other person ever in a mob movie — tells us a man must have a code. The Harlem of Luke Cage is no different. There’s some sh*t you just don’t do and if you do, the consequences can be grave. While the first episode started Luke on his journey of official reluctant super-heroism, this episode firmly sets Luke and Cottonmouth on a collision course while juxtaposing the different codes Harlem can live by. Cage advocates for a more peaceful approach that emphasizes the people, and Cottonmouth says he’s all about peace, but you can tell he means the other thing. He wants Harlem to serve as his own personal piggybank, firmly believing that his rising tide will lift all other boats. Even if said boats are riddled with bullet holes from his gun.

3. “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight”

“Knowledge is power” echoes when this track starts. For Cage, those words couldn’t be truer. The third episode finds him in a position of obtaining a lot of knowledge on Cottonmouth’s organization and it’s up him to use it as he sees fit. He realizes the best way to get the attention of a big bad guy is to mess with his money. The episode title has a double meaning, as all of Cottonmouth’s money will tip any scale on earth, but there’s plenty of weight on Luke’s shoulders as well with a void left in Harlem. With Pop dead, someone has to step up and be the new beacon for the people. Those shoes are tough to fill for even a guy as big as Luke, especially with him carrying his own “weight” on his shoulders. He blames himself for Pop’s death because he waited too long to act, determined to bury his light under a bushel. Safe to say after the events of Episode 3, he finally understands it’s time to shine.

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