One of rap’s most overused cliches is the phrase “my life is like a movie.” Significantly much harder to come across are the artists who liken their entire albums to the medium of film. Most recently, Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge teamed up for Twelve Reasons to Die, an album made to sound like an original score for the type of action-packed grimey exploitation films that the original Wu-Tang sound was inspired by. However, Ghost is not quite the first to employ this tactic. While rappers have made soundtracks to their own films, films based on their albums, albums based on other people’s films and even songs about making films, not many have made albums that “were” films. In honor of Ghostface’s show tonight night at the Gramercy Theatre we decided to take a look back at this unique sub-subgenre to celebrate the other rap “album-films.”
A Prince Among Thieves, 1999
Arguably the most ambitious of the these rap-album-movies is Prince Paul’s harrowing hood opera A Prince Among Thieves. Starring The Juggaknots’ Breezly Brewin as “Tariq,” a desperate man looking to do whatever it takes to record a demo tape, it features a cast of contributions ranging from De La Soul and Big Daddy Kane to Everlast and Xzibit. While Paul did shoot a trailer-style extended music video for the album (which was five minutes long in the U.S. and ran 10 minutes overseas) it was sadly never realized in another medium.
Movies For the Blind, 2002
Just about Cage’s entire career has been tied to his love of film. From his breakthrough Necro-produced single “Agent Orange” sampling the haunting synths from the score of A Clockwork Orange to his frequent references to the more vile side of cult classic cinema, it wasn’t all that surprising when his official debut album was called Movies for the Blind. With a cover art referencing the original posters for They Live, the album encompassed a series of sadistic stories that was originally meant to tie-in with a DVD called Soundtrack For the Deaf, which wound up being retitled The Home Movies.
Hyphen One & Daylow
Hyphen One & Daylow, 2005
Also believing his music was the audio equivalent of a film was New Jersey underground staple Hyphen One. Backed by his band Daylow, he released their self-titled EP in 2005. Given Hyphen’s vivid wordplay (perhaps matching the vivid artwork he would create at his shows) he wanted the EP to be heard as a something so strong, it would conjure visuals so intense in the listener’s mind that it would be remembered as a film. Thus, instead of selling the CD in a traditional CD case, the disc was officially sold in a DVD case.
To Love a Hooker: The Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2006
While J-Zone’s known for his hilarious lyrics, his sense of comedic timing proved to also successfully translate into his stand-alone beats with the release of his instrumental album To Love A Hooker: The Motion Picture Soundtrack. While J-Zone hoped to eventually bring the film to life on the big screen, he first wanted to establish his vision with an original score including skits setting up what was to happen in each scene. While the film never got made, J-Zone did invite any rapper who wanted to attempt rhyming to the album and following the narrative to use the guidelines for each song in the album’s linear notes. The only MC to do so wound up being an Arizona rap artist Monk McNasty.
Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack, 2007
The arguably least expected of all these came from Portland rap trio Lifesavas who followed up their witty social commentary-laced debut Spirit in Stone with Gutterfly, a soundtrack to a blaxploitation film that doesn’t exist. More than just taking the cues, tropes and samples from the genre, the group’s members each portray an original character and use the blaxploitation hallmarks (as well as appearances from George Clinton and Living Colour’s Vernon Reid) to present their trademark societal critiques in a refreshing new way.