Album: Blade 2 Soundtrack
Rating: 5 / 10
Surely noone will slap themselves across the face to make sure they’re not imagining things, when they hear the news that the compilation album which accompanies the new movie “Blade 2” is full of hip hop artists. Hip hop based movie “soundtracks” are coming thick and fast these days, from “Training Day” to “Rush Hour” to “Any Given Sunday”. But the “Blade 2” album is supposedly different from the usual studio-outtake filled fare, in that it is designed to bring electronic and hip hop music styles together in collaboration. Actually, this sounds more exciting than it is – if you read between the lines of the pre-album hype, you’ll see it’s just a whole load of hip hop emcees rhyming over beats made by electronic music artists.
None of these emcees are in sight, however, when Danny Saber & Marco Beltrami set the scene with the Blade theme, the album opener. It’s a dark techno anthem which is big on bass but low on originality. It’s got a rumbling, ominous bassline – rather like the James Bond theme. It’s got urgently melodramatic horns to heighten the atmosphere – rather like the James Bond theme. Somewhere towards the middle, a big string section takes center stage to build up the tension a little – rather like the James Bond theme. As it comes to a close, a electric guitar comes in to sneer over the mighty orchestra, again to create ambience – rather like the James Bond theme. In fact, I’m pretty sure this IS the James Bond theme, and it’s been so long since I’ve actually stayed to the end of a James Bond film that I’ve forgotten what the original theme sounds like. I’ve heard of learning from your more experienced peers, but this is ridiculous.
Hip hop/electronic hybrids then. The aforementioned Danny Saber submits a very flat drum-and-bass-lite backdrop for two of the most unexciting emcees of all time, Jadakiss & Fabulous. Now I’m very sorry, but this reviewer honestly can’t tell the difference between them. That’s more their fault than mine however, when they both deliver every verse in an identical insipid, baldly enunciated way and both spit identical generic multi-syllable “I’ll put guns to your head, shoot one and your dead” street raps, the type peddled by 95% of New York emcees. It’s not glorious stuff we ‘re getting here.
Paul Oakenfold got it twisted, evidently. He fires huge volleys of rather inappropriate heavy metal guitar over the chorus of ‘Right Here Right Now’, as Ice Cube shouts some mightily sexist piss over the otherwise bland production, suggesting that no, Cube’s next album will not be a return to form after the lacklustre “War & Peace” series.
This whole compilation seems to be very rushed. Very little seems crafted carefully, it seems very likely that the techno producers just threw together a beat quickly and sent it to the emcees (who they probably never spoke to) so they could throw together some verses quickly. The unremarkable emceeing of Eve and a strangely tedious slab of Fatboy Slim big beat rhythm fit together horribly on ‘Cowboy’. And who’s idea was it to combine Groove Armada with Trina? A crass gangsta Lil’ Kim clone combined with a chilled ambient techno outfit? Again, it doesn’t work. The rhymes are awful, as basic as hip hop in 2002 gets, and the beat is worse than anything on Groove Armada’s last two albums, which leads me to suspect it’s a throwaway. A substandard Rah Digga performance doesn’t help things either.
And if you’re talking bad combinations, how’s Moby & Mystikal for you? What part does a unintelligible gravel-gargling, vowel-strangling gangsta emcee have in Moby’s vegetarian conservative world peace philosophies? Indeed, what part was he supposed to play in this track ‘Getting Aggressive’ (kinda hard to picture Moby getting aggressive, isn’t it)? He raps – if you can call it that, I’d call it incoherent yelling – with no regard for Moby’s actually pretty nice beat. A glimmer of good production – featuring a fantastic bassline and brilliant vocal sample layering – on here is wasted, as Mystikal attempts to derail the track every 3 seconds by going “Barrahh Yeaahhh Scchlohhh Yarrrraa Taaattiiissssstttt” (this spelling may be incorrect).
Roni Size is no stranger to working with emcees – he had Method Man, Rahzel & Zack De La Rocha on his last album, and has produced tracks for Redman among others, so it’s no surprise he’s been called on to produce a couple of tracks here. Now Roni Size is generally a very good producer. But here, he’s followed the examples of Oakenfold and Fatboy Slim and handed out a rubbish beat to the horribly incompetent Volume 10, whose raps are rhythmically irregular and as smooth as driving on a corrugated iron roof. The production ‘s instantly recognisable as throwaway Roni Size – the overused synthesized bleep pattern, the generic drum & bass rhythm. Disappointing to say the least. At least he actually provides a better beat for his other appearance, ‘Child Of The West’, and leaves it to Cypress Hill to ruin the track themselves with a bafflingly wack performance. Neither B-Real or Sen Dog really sound like they know what they’re doing.
On ‘One’, The Dub Pistols layer some clean guitars over a solid rhythm, to play host to perhaps the second most stupid combination of the album – Busta Rhymes & Silkk The Shocker. Isn’t this like black and white? One of the most energetic, distinctive, exciting emcees of all time, with one of the most anonymous, lyrically banal, dull emcees of all time? Anyway, that’s irrelevant, because it doesn’t seem like either of them put very much effort into it at all, which is the case for almost the entire album.
But, there’s a couple of bright spots. The already ape-fixated Redman collaborates with Gorillaz (isn’t Dan The Automator a hip hop, not electronic, producer anyway? Whatever….) on ‘Gorillaz On My Mind’. This isn’t really an all new track, it’s just Redman rhyming over the beat to the hit Gorillaz single ’19-2000′, but leave it to Reggie to up the ante. “Who’s that ape? Mighty Joe Young, lights cameras action, roll drums, now let me ask you what it feel like…with a banana in your tailpipe, immortal, I walk the jungle with my balls showing, see me? you better leave like when fall close in”. As always, the Funk Doc brings shitloads of appeal on the mic, and shines out from the shower of lacklustre performances that are the rest of this album.
But there were two names on this album which guaranteed there was going to be no slip ups whatsoever on their particular track. Mos Def and Massive Attack. The Bristolian trip-hop masters provide a extremely dark, ominous bass-saturated beat for the outstanding Brooklyn lyricist to mesmerise his audience – “Flesh of my flesh, mind of my mind, two of a kind but one won’t survive” – on the amazing ‘I Against I’. It’s one of Mos’ most deep lyrical performances since the Black Star album, and is a must listen.
This album disappoints hugely. It seems like it was thrown together very quickly, which is probably very true. It looks like they’re trying to sell this album on the concept, and of course the name of the movie, rather than the final results, and that’s not good for the music buyer. The names may scream credibility, but the music for the most part only mumbles mediocrity.