Ay yo, wassup family!? It's your old pal The Soulman again, back to take yet another shuttle to the World of Beats and look closely at what the hip-hop subculture known as beat-finding is all about. This month the topic of discussion is movie soundtracks, one of the best sources for digging up hidden treasures.
A brief overview: hunting down hard-to-find records with funky breaks began back in the earliest days of hip-hop, with pioneers like Kool Herc and Africa Bambaataa coming up with unknown records that would rock crowds in the parks and keep the competition befuddled. Anyone could pull a funk joint like The Commodores' "Brickhouse" out of a crate, but you had to be a true digger to stumble upon a jam like "Hihache" by The Lafayette Afro Rock Band (an African recording) or "Sing A Simple Song" by Please (a Bambaataa discovery from the Phillipines).
The most obvious soundtrack albums to scoop up are the old seventies Blaxploitaion joints like "Shaft", "Superfly", "Willie Dynamite", "Coffy", and the like. Damn near all of those movies had some funky-ass music backing them up, and you really can't go wrong with any of the soundtracks from that era (although, of course, some will be better than others - "Superfly T.N.T." is no "Superfly" whether you're talking about the movie or the music).
As a rule when shopping for beats, the stuff from the late sixties/early seventies is usually your best bet. This rule definitely applies when late seventies shit is almost always too slickly produced with either a Gamble-Huff Philadelphia sound (complete with a string section) or a straight disco vibe. Also, if the album cover design looks a little too polished, that could be a sign of a less-than-funky album. But as always, you really can't judge a record by its cover. You just have to take your chances and cross your fingers.
If you're not familier with Blaxploitaion flicks , it still isn't very hard to spot one of these soundtracks. Look for big pimp hats, bell bottoms, platform kicks, wild 'fros and loud tacky suits, beautiful women with Afro puffs clinging all over some macked out brother standing next to a Caddy... And if you spot titles like "Coolbreeze", "Sheeba Baby", or "Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song", you can bet that it ain't a Robert Redford flick. But before I go dissin' Redford, let me say that I actually do have a soundtrack from one of his movies that has some real nice beats on it (thanks to my Archaeologist brother Son of Shaft who dug up that fossil - good lookin', kid). Which goes to show that any kind of flick might contain some fat beats.
And you don't have to always look only for beats - you might just catch some butter sound effects. Hippie musicals like "Hair" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" usually have a lot of funky parts to snatch up, too. And I need not even mention the old school Kung Fu flicks. Some of them have dope shit for sampling, but you may have to get it straight off the VCR if the soundtrack isn't available on record.
Maybe most importantly, check for who's playing on the soundtrack. The same people who get wreck on their own records can usually be counted on to get wreck on a movie score as well, like Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, Roy Ayers, and many others. J.J. Johnson and Weldon Irvine are also two great musicians who shouldn't be slept on.
So from now on when you're looking at old flicks on the late late late show, keep an ear out for beats in the background. and just take a chance on different movie soundtracks...you might stumble upon a diamond in the rough, yo.
Hey, you gotta' do some work on your own!
Until next time, keep those fingers filthy.