10 Classic Rap Albums That Could’ve Been Soundtracks to Classic Films
Companion pieces beyond JAY-Z's 'American Gangster'
In hip hop, vivid imagery and honest emotion have always been key, resulting in some of the greatest music of all time. As a genre and culture that was born out of sampling and recontextualzing breakbeats, rap has long taken inspiration from sources from the past and present, then translated them into a new form of art. And on some occasions that inspiration has come in the form of film. One of those instances occurred ten years ago, when a previously-retired JAY-Z released his 10th solo studio album, American Gangster, inspired by director Ridley Scott’s 2007 movie of the same name.
American Gangster chronicles the life of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) during his time as one of the biggest drug traffickers in New York City, and his arrest and conviction as a result of an investigation led by detective Richie Roberts (played by Russell Crowe). JAY-Z, who is also an alleged former drug trafficker himself, said that after screening the film prior to its release, he was so moved that he created a whole new album based on it, with each song inspired by or representing a scene from the movie. It was an unprecedented move in hip hop, and American Gangster doubled as an unofficial soundtrack to the film, becoming the music that most people now associate with it rather than its actual score.
With the 10th anniversary of American Gangster upon us, we began thinking about other classic rap albums that theoretically could’ve doubled as soundtracks to classic movies. Being that many of the movies nearest and dearest to the hip hop community already have their own rap-dominated soundtracks, we stayed away from those choices. And with that said, some of these pairings may appear odd at first, but upon closer examination, they are sonically and thematically conjoined. Pop some popcorn, turn on the stereo and check how it all syncs up.