Mo' Better Tunes: The Ultimate Spike Lee Soundtrack
When Spike Lee puts out a new film, I always make a point to check it out, even if I hated his last one. He's directed more hits than misses, and even his duds have been quality duds. The first Spike Lee joint that I saw as a kid was Malcolm X, which I definitely did not understand at all beyond the fact that it was awesome. I was pretty well hooked after that.
One of the best things about Spike's movies (besides all the righteous anger) is the music. Songs aren't just background filler in a Spike Lee film. The director often devotes big chunks of screen time to scenes with no dialogue, just images set to music that evoke feelings you didn't realize were inside you. From jazz to hip-hop to R&B and soul, Spike Lee movies have served as a pretty great introduction to some incredible tunes over the years.
In honor of Spike's 55th birthday this month, I've been revisiting some of my favorite soundtrack cuts from his lengthy career and exploring a few that I never noticed before. Here are ten of the best.
Public Enemy, "Fight the Power" (Music Video): There's no piece of music more associated with Spike Lee than Public Enemy's masterpiece, "Fight the Power." This classic banger exploded like a bombshell during the opening credits of Do the Right Thing while a smokin' young Rosie Perez danced with the fury of 10,000 oppressed minorities. I've kinda had a thing for brassy Puerto Rican chicks ever since the first time we saw that unforgettable sequence, and God knows I'm not alone.
Spike and P.E. were such a perfect fit back in 1989 that he even directed this track's music video, featuring the dopest activist march/political convention/block party ever burned into celluloid. It made such an indellible impact, in fact, that nearly a quarter-century later I'm still afraid of a black planet.
Branford Marsalis Quartet feat. Cynda Williams, "Harlem Blues," (Mo' Better Blues): Spike Lee's musical tastes aren't completely consumed by righteous anger, of course. In fact, he's always displayed a soft spot for cool jazz. Mo' Better Blues includes some great numbers in it, but none sticks out like Cynda Williams' performance of "Harlem Blues" from the film.
Spike didn't skimp on the talent for the movie's soundtrack -- the music was recorded by the Branford Marsalis Quartet featuring Terrence Blanchard on trumpet, one of the earliest musical collaborations in a long partnership between Lee and Blanchard.
Naughty By Nature, "Hip Hop Hooray" (Music Video): By 1993, Spike Lee was Hollywood's hip-hop superstar after sparking acclaim and controversy in equal measure with Malcolm X. That year, he directed the music video for the rap song of the summer, Naughty by Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray," helping it hit No. 1 on the charts. Nearly 20 years later, it's still damn near impossible not to sing along to one of the greatest choruses in rap historAAAY! HOOOO!