I had the pleasure of seeing Dave Chappelle’s Block Party which was one of the finest fusions of music and comedy I’ve ever seen. You can read my rambling praise right about here. Luckily I also got a chance to review the soundtrack and while the results weren’t as amazing they weren’t all bad either. Each track starts with a conference call of the entertainers setting up the show. It’s relatively cool sounding if not really informative. I’m going to break it down for you track by track just like my hero MC Hammer would want me to.
Track 1: Hip Hop by Dead Prez
Dead Prez consists of two guys that are sick with street cred and very short on riches gained from said street cred. Is this because their message is anti corporation? I don’t think so because bands like Rage against the Machine hate big business and laugh all the way to the bank. I think the Prez’ real issue is they don’t seem to be a huge fan of whitey. That can’t help sales unless you are the Wu Tang. Anyway, racial overtones aside these guys are really good and “Hip Hop” shows off their sizable skill. They take everyone on, from crackers to other rappers. This is a good track to start the record off just as it was a nice rhyme to start off the film with. Would you rather have a Lexus or justice? Sadly for the Dead Prez most people would want to know what color it was coming in before making the final decision.
Track 2: Definition by Blackstar
Blackstar is comprised of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, two talented rappers long on social concerns. The song itself is fairly typical of a rhythmic Jay-Z style track with quick beats and points. It’s not a bad effort but you wouldn’t listen to it over and over.
Track 3: Golden by Jill Scott
To me Jill Scott is kind of enigma. She’s got a monster voice, big and bold and ready for soul. When she’s at her best she can take the party to a higher level. On her less amazing efforts she tends to come off like any gospel singer in any Baptist church in America. This track is a little of both. The first two minutes are an attempt at funky but are a bit boring. After that the song transitions into something much more fun that reminded me a lot of Steely Dan (musically, not lyrically). The end of the track features the conference call instead of starting the next track with it. It also has some funny moments with Frenchy Michel Gondry.
Track 4: Universal Magnetic by Mos Def
Here is where the album sinks into typical because this is a “hey look at me” track from Mos Def. There is something inherently uninteresting these days about battle style rap. On the other hand this one leads right into…
Track 5: The Blast by Talib Kweli feat. Erykah Badu
This one has a nice little hook to it. When Erykah Badu says “what the hell is wrong with these damn MC’s?” you feel like “hey, sister, did you hear the last track?” Regardless this treat will have you bobbing your head both in agreement and to the nice beat.
Track 6: The Light by Common feat. Erykah Badu and Bilal
If you put Erykah on your track it bumps it. Write that down hip hoppers! This one bumps. I can even forgive the bit of rambling riffing that happens on the tail end of this one. Another Gondry alert here.
Track 7: Boom by The Roots feat. Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap
The Roots are so good we can call them nasty. This one shifts the album’s flow from soul over to rap again. The Roots are on a level musically where they could almost rhyme anything and it would sound good. Boom!
Track 8: Back in the Day by Erykah Badu
She’s still smooth and silky folks. We know she’s a vegetarian and likes weed but we also find out she’ll probably be late if you book her. But when she GETS there she lays it down b-bop style until you are dancing around your living room like an idiot. What’s that? Okay, I’ll sit down. At the end of this track Jill Scott lets us know she doesn’t want to sing anything off prior albums. Sorry Jilly from Philly, Dave’s in charge.
Track 9: The Way by Jill Scott
This is a power ballad through and through. Jill really reminds me of a 60’s style singer in the mold of Jefferson Airplane (Go Ask Alice). She’s got a ton of psychedelic style to her. This track isn’t great but shows off her vocal range.
Track 10: Umi Says by Mos Def
I think this is my favorite track on the album and it’s by my main man Mos Def. Sorry for the hate earlier man. The lyrics are so good here, “For you and me, tomorrow’s not promised.” Highly Diggable. Brooklyn do you feel me?? Shine your light, shine your light on the world. Okay, I’m just repeating lyrics because I’m sick with love for this track.
Track 11: You Got Me by The Roots feat. Erykah Badu and Jill Scott
My second favorite track because the gals (Scott and Badu) get together and slay everything in sight. Plus it’s got The Roots who are never bad at anything. This is wonderful collaboration.
Track 12: Born and Raised by Blackstar
I can’t figure out for the life of me why they ended with this track because it sounds like everything else out there. Maybe Chappelle manages Blackstar? I don’t know but it’s pretty anti climatic compared with how soulful and lyrical the previous two songs are.
There were some huge omissions on this soundtrack which could have pushed it into the stratosphere. I’m sure it was a rights issue but it still sucks. The most notable songs from the movie not featured on the disc are “Turn off the Radio” (Dead Prez), “President” (Wyclef Jean), and “Get em High” (Kanye West). Overall this CD is worth buying if you are in to the genres represented. It’s got three very good tracks and a few good ones too. If you really want to be moved you should see the movie first though. Shine your light on the world.