It's a surplus of riches...
Though this cover rather cheekily boasts a tasty mug shot of Eminem, this isn’t an Eminem album. Instead ‘More Music From 8 Mile’ is a faithful soundtrack to the movie rather than an inspired by collection, like last year’s US chart topping ‘8 Mile’.
Since the film is set in the mid nineties it’s a collection of the sounds when Eminem (and the film’s semi-autobiographical character Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith Jr) was ricocheting from one demeaning part time job to another, just beginning to make his way on the mic.
This was a time when Biggie and Tupac (both here) strode the hip hop world like twin colossi representing the east and west coasts respectively, Puff Daddy was a behind-the-scenes producer and the Wu Tang Clan hadn’t yet released 5,684 albums between them. And, of course, the only white rapper of renown was, er, Vanilla Ice. ‘More Music From 8 Mile’ is a peerless introduction to the mid nineties scene with a focus on the all-conquering gangsta rap.
These were the radio tunes that provided inspiration to the emerging hip hop talents; from the spinechilling twisted gangsta paranoia of Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook Ones Pt II’ featuring the ever-charming threat to ‘stab your brain with your nosebone’ to Naughty By Nature’s intoxicatingly buoyant ‘Feel Me Flow’, which is the aural equivalent of arriving at the coolest party in the world the moment the free champagne arrives.
As the 90s progressed rap was dabbling in jazzy flourishes (MC Breed’s ‘Gotta Get Mine’) and reassembling the keyboards and slap bass of the ’80s into fresh new masterpieces (Biggie’s ‘Juicy’). Into this landscape the Wu Tang Clan materialised in 1993 and revolutionised rap overnight with something just as dark, if not darker than mere gangsta rap. They brought an ominous malevolence to the fore and created a whole new sound driven by off kilter eerie horror backings – C.R.E.A.M.’s is a looped piano riff with shimmering keyboards.
That almost a third of ‘More music…’ is the Wu-Tang Clan solo or together illustrates how much energy they brought to the party.
Standouts include: the gloriously nonsense wah wah singalong of Old Dirty Bastard’s ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’; the claustrophobic love of Method Man and Mary J Blige‘s update of Ashford and Simpson’s ‘All I Need’ that hints at a deadlier obsession; OutKast‘s southern fried ‘Player’s Ball’ serving as a gentle reminder that they were enormous stateside long before the UK fell under the spell of the ample charms of ‘Ms Jackson’.
What’s notable about ‘More Music…’ is how much is still common currency – Biggie’s vocal on ‘Juicy’ found itself weaved seamlessly into Jay-Z‘s ‘A Dream’ from last year’s The Blueprint 2 while Method Man’s confrontational ‘Bring Da Pain’ has been recently revisited (albeit at a faster tempo) by Missy Elliott on her ‘Under Construction’ album. Even Mobb Deep’s menacing ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ was looted by Dilated Peoples to produce the title and chorus for their rousing 2002 hit ‘Worst Comes To Worst’.
It’s a surplus of riches, delivering far more than you’ve any right to expect of a second soundtrack album but it’s also a a cool education in the mid-nineties hip hop scene and an intriguing examination of the roots of Eminem. Class of ’95. Class even now.