ovie soundtracks are notorious for their lack of consistency, often to the point where the album is unplayable as a whole. The question becomes then, why do we, the listener, continue to purchase sub par albums like 2001’s gold-selling soundtrack for The Fast and the Furious, sending a message to record label executives that they can continue to release choppy and thoughtless compilations? The reason is all in the advertising. The albums feature tracks from popular artists that choose to exert little effort on a song just to appear on a soundtrack. However, two previous soundtracks that were bearable, even good, were the Judgment Night and Spawn soundtracks. Judgment Night featured a fusion of heavy metal and rap, featuring such unlikely combinations as Biohazard and Onyx, De La Soul and Teenage Fan Club, and Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill. Even though the movie was atrocious, the soundtrack was intriguing and the combinations well planned. Spawn was a mixture of electronic music and heavy metal rock, featuring mismatches like Soul Coughing and Roni Size, Korn and the Dust Brothers, and Filter and the Crystal Method. The mastermind behind both of those albums, Happy Walters, devises the only combination left untouched of the three genres, electronica and rap. Just like the movie succeeds with a main character that is half-vampire, half-man, could the soundtrack succeed with such a supposedly similar mismatch?
The very idea seems to lack substance; it’s not like this is entirely new, after all. Hip-hop artists have appeared on electronica before, and will continue to in the future. While the concept for the album may not be 100% original, it is something different in the cluttered music scene, and is very worthy of certain consumer’s dollars. Both fans of techno and fans of rap music should enjoy this album. It is definitely helped by a very strong first track, something many albums lack. “Blade 2”, a flashback to the original Blade theme by Marco Beltrami and Danny Saber, is molded to be an interesting track, even without an MC. For reasons that can only described as nostalgia, the songs starts off with a similar beat to the original Blade, but grows into its own track very quickly. I am admittedly not a huge fan of techno, often to the fact that some of it is repetitive and derivative. The Blade 2 theme, however, is a welcome change from this. The song constantly evolves to the point where the listener isn’t even sure what happened when it is over. The confusion that is created by the first track is a great lead-in to the rest of the soundtrack.
Most of the techno beats are very strong. As expected, artists like Moby, Roni Size, and Fatboy Slim create tracks that feel like they were created specifically for the artist. Fatboy Slim’s track for “Cowboy” feels extremely familiar, almost a combination of Eve’s previous singles “Ryde or Die Bitch” and “Who’s That Girl”. Like both of those songs, “Cowboy” has an very cha-cha influenced type beat. While Eve is not the strongest rapper, she certainly works well over beats of this type, as seen in the past. Fatboy Slim, however, adds his own distinctive touch to create a song that is surprisingly one of the best moments of the whole album. Roni Size’s track for Cypress Hill, “Child of the West” has a few sound effects that almost feel like an alarm clock. The beat, arguably the best on the album, far outshines Cypress Hill and their rapidly declining skills. For techno fans, this may not be much of a problem. Often, MCs that rhyme over techno beats aren’t the best MCs, but they get the job done. Blade 2 is very much the same way in the respect that all of the beats are amazing, but the rhymes are often poor.
Paul Oakenfolds’ rock-tinged track for Ice Cube on “Right Here, Right Now” feels like it could have appeared on one of an Ice Cube’s album, as it is very reminiscent of Cube and Korn’s collaboration, “Fuck Dying” from War and Peace Volume 1, with a bit of techno flavor on top. The track works very well despite Ice Cube being over the proverbial rap hill, delivering a verse that is similar to most of the tracks in the album as that it pales in comparison to the beat. Oakenfeld’s beat deserves better treatment than: “I’m shrapnel from the explosion / Hit you in the face while you posin’ / High as Jimi Hendrix / I lined up ten dicks and took out appendix / So, go get forensics / Let ‘em know I’m Geronimo / Till it’s my time to go / You better find your ho / Get your babies and their mommas, and move to Guantanemo”. Sadly, this is the way most of the album continues. Trina and Rah Digga completely waste Groove Armada’s Salsa and Caribbean influenced gem, “Gangsta Queens”. Digga, the better of the MCs by far, barely rhymes, and Trina, in the way only Trina can, creates nursery rhymes with a voice that sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Jadakiss and Fabolous, two of my least favorite MCs, absolutely destroy Danny Saber’s pop-friendly but still hardcore “We Be Like This”. While most would imagine that the two would shine over a happy, pop-style beat, they are completely useless. Similar results appear on the Bubba Sparxxx and Crystal Method song “PHDream”. Both songs would be stronger without the MCs, as all three MCs do not mesh well with the tracks and do not keep the flow of the album. If the songs had simply been instrumentals, the album would not have suffered.
Coming from a hip-hop fan’s point of view, none of the songs feature MCs that outshine the track. The closest anyone comes to it is Redman with the Gorillaz on “Gorillaz on My Mind”. Re-using the Gorillaz’ beat for “19-2000” off of their debut, Redman rhymes about real gorillas, using his trademark humor to mesh with a beat that’s even kind of funny. Besides Redman, The Roots mesh perfectly with BT on “Tao of the Machine”. The track is not an extremely unique techno beat, featuring a hard-rock influenced track with sound effects straight from a keyboard littering the drum track. However, the beat works very well with the Roots, and while none of the group raps for very long, the artists fit together very well to create an enjoyable track for both Roots and BT fans. The best track on the album is the combination between Mos Def and Massive Attack, “I against I”, the first single. Massive Attack creates an especially good beat, that, while low-key, accentuates Mos Def amazingly well and builds towards his strengths. The track features a sweet backbeat that sounds like music that would be played on Halloween, interestingly enough. Mos Def gives one of his strongest performances since his classic debut, Black on Both Sides. Describing a battle within his own mind against itself, Mos Def paints an excellent picture of a man at war with himself. The best part is that Massive Attack’s beat almost sounds even the beat can’t decide what it is going to be, as it switches up near the end of the song to an elevator-music type techno beat, building back into a crescendo of the haunting main beat. The song is simply a must listen.
The overall prognosis of Blade 2 is very good. Although there is a definite lack of cohesion due to the fact that every song has different artists on it, the techno artists manage to minimize this by creating songs that fit into the atmosphere of the movie. The advantage that Blade 2 has over any other soundtrack is that the movie has a very defined “sound”: techno-rock. While “Gorillaz on My Mind” is the only track that doesn’t have this techno-rock aka black-leather and headbanging sensibilities, the rest of the album does. Even though none of the MCs dominate a track, they never feel out of place. They may not deliver a good performance, but they are at least easy to ignore. If one can learn to respect the wonderful techno beats for what they are, and ignore the MCs they don’t like, the album becomes a very, very good techno album with a few good MCs and a lot of just plain great music.
Reviewed by: Brett Berliner
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01