Basketball and hip hop have always gone hand and hand. Classic music and soundtracks in the 90’s also went hand in hand. 23 year ago, Death Row Records released the best soundtrack to come from that decade: Above The Rim. Featuring a slew of up and coming talent from Death Row Records and a host of other mc’s, familiar singers, this soundtrack was absolutely amazing.
Above the Rim Soundtrack Anniversary
SWV immediately put you in a full nelson with the Wu Tang assisted “Anything”. You’ve heard the “Get Up and Dance” sample plenty time. But the Sisters with Voices and the Shaolin lyricists perfectly executed a marriage between hip hop and R&B. This is one of the most unforgettable jams from the 90’s. You even hear the party in the background of the song. Sweet Sable is up next and sings over a classic Eddie Kendricks sample. “Old Times Sake” is another classic jam with one of the best sung hooks in the 90’s “smoking a blunt and sipping on a Heineken” As soon as I heard this, I was on a quest to find that type of chick.
The albums first two songs are still played at my barbeques.
SWV – Anything
Dogg Pound, Snoop and Nate Dogg finally show up with some hip hop and this was worth the wait. The trio glides through the breezy Daz produced record with ease. The game kicked at the end is a fitted finish. This sounds as good as it did back then. We can only hope this group has another song on the album.
Tha Dogg Pound Gangstas – Big Pimpin
Track 7 dropped a bomb on the entire planet. Even Joffrey and Cersei bobbed their heads to “Regulate” over in Westeros. Easily the most popular song on the album, Warren G and Nate Dogg got in full blown storytelling mode. I mean, is there anything better than a story about chasing broads, getting jacked, then have your partner handle them? Perhaps its the silky smooth Michael McDonald sample? Or maybe the fact that this was an official introduction to G Funk. Warren even boasted,
I’m tweaking into a whole new era
G-Funk step to this, I dare ya.
Funk on a whole new level.
Then Nate Dogg croons,
The rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treble.
The juggernaut hip hop label, Def Jam took notice and eventually drafted Warren G…..one of the first west coast artists to sign.
Tupac shows up and reminisces on an illicit childhood, but touches on the loss of one of his crew on “Pour out a Little Liquor” This Johnny J production was ultra smooth and the Spice 1 vocal sample propelled this to a flawless victory.
“Drinkin’ on gin, smokin’ on blunts and it’s on
Reminiscin’ ’bout my niggas that’s dead and gone
And now they buried, sometimes my eyes still get blurry
‘Cause I’m losin’ all my homies and I worry
I got my back against a brick wall trapped in a circle
Boxin’ with them suckas ’til my knuckles turn purple
2Pac-Pour Out A Little Liquor
Its about time to switch up the tempo. Guy frontman Aaron Hall recruits Death Row’s songstress Jewell to join him on the sappy “Gonna Give it To You”. Nothing new here, but Jewell goes solo later on in the show. “Its Not Deep Enough” was more tolerable thanks to the Mr. Dalvin production which sampled my pops favorite Donald Bryd’s song “Wind Parade” Speaking of Dalvin, his Jodeci brethren Devante Swing produced H-Town’s “Part Time Lover” and B-Rezell’s “Blowed Away”. I never heard of that cat but the song was on repeat before the fellas and I stepped into Club 2001 on the prowl.
The 80’s pretty boy himself, Al B Sure steps into the 90’s with a cover. “I’m Still In Love With You” was originally an Al Green masterpiece, but Al did it justice. The song is cool, but the most out of place with the rest of the album
Lady of Rage
Then Track 10 hits and a new lady full of rage gets busy over head nodding production courtesy of Dr Dre. You may have recognized The Lady of Rage from being “Stranded on Death Row” and the intro to Snoops debut album. She took her “I rock ruff and stuff with my Afro-Puffs” vocal sample and made it into a full blown song. She eviscerates the mic with rhymes like:
So umm, let me loosen up my bra strap
And umm, let me boost ya with my raw rap
Cause I’mma break it down to the nitty-gritty one time
When it comes to the lyrics I gets busy with mine
Busy as a beaver, ya best believe-a
This grand diva’s runnin shit with the speed of a cheetah, mira
And who can forget when Rage rhymes:
Now I’m hittin MC’s like Hadouken
Ain’t no doubt about it I’m the undisputed
CPO had a message to the hoes on “Jus So Ya No.” “U Bring the Dog Out In Me” was definitely an underrated song on the album. I wasn’t familiar with Rhythm & Knowledge but their song was jamming. From the moment it came on, the beat grabbed on and definitely moved you. This got plenty of play in my 1988 Oldsmobile Firenza while heading to the Buckland Hills Mall.
“Dogg Pound 4 Life” brings back The Dogg Pound and Snoop on the final track. Daz once again blessed us with another stellar production that sounds like you were hurling space.
Couldn’t help but notice your pain
Then you hear the above line from Star Trek 5 (the worse one in the franchise) and instantly wonder where the other 2Pac songs are? This was the last hip hop cassette you had to own. There were 3 songs on there that the CD didn’t have.
Easily one of his best songs, 2Pac rhymed with more passion than Drago on the treadmill on “Pain”. He perfectly verbalized the anguish that runs rampart in his neighborhood. The Earl Klugh sample is one of my personal favorites of all time.
Another gem that was only on the cassette was “Loyal to the Game”. Treach joined Pac and also featured a rapper that is no doubt on the side of a milk carton since 94, Riddler. The soulful Cameo sample and the hard hitting bassline made this yet another standout. The 3rd song featured Lord G getting busy on the sinister track “Mi Monie Rite”
This soundtrack is a close contender for the best soundtrack ever. New Jack R&B, perfectly crafted west coast production, east coast rhymes, some new MC’s and others we are familiar and two of the immortal 2Pac’s best songs all helped contribute to a classic soundtrack from start to finish. This sounds just as dope it did to my 17 year old sexiness.
Get the Delorean ready…..next stop 1994.
Above the Rim Soundtrack Anniversary