10 Essential Hip-Hop Soundtracks You Need In Your Music Collection

Next week the Jay-Z executive produced soundtrack for The Great Gatsby will be available for purchase. The collection will feature the new Jay song “100$ Bill” and a “Back to Black” remake by Andre 3000 and Beyoncé, but the rest of the album will be tracks by pop, EDM, and rock acts. So if you’re missing […]

Next week the Jay-Z executive produced soundtrack for The Great Gatsby will be available for purchase. The collection will feature the new Jay song “100$ Bill” and a “Back to Black” remake by Andre 3000 and Beyoncé, but the rest of the album will be tracks by pop, EDM, and rock acts. So if you’re missing the days of classic movie compilations rooted in the culture, here’s 10 vintage Hip-Hop-centered soundtracks that rap music collectors need to add to their playlists.

[ALSO READ: The Great Gatsby Tracklisting Revealed]

8 Mile (2002)


Eminem’s semi-autobiographical tale of an aspiring emcee’s battle from the bottom to the limelight was one of the most commercially successful Hip-Hop themed movies of all time. The accompanying album was also a major milestone for the culture as well. 8 Mile’s lead single, “Lose Yourself” by Em, was the first rap song to ever win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The collection helped introduce a Queens rapper named 50 Cent to the mainstream with his hit song “Wanksta.” The 8 Mile soundtrack also got the attention of Hip-Hop fans because of the fact that both Jay-Z and Nas appeared on the LP even though the two rap titans were still in the midst of their famous beef.

Key Tracks: “Lose Yourself” (Eminem), “Wanksta” (50 Cent), “Love Me” (Eminem, 50 Cent, Obie Trice),”You Wanna Be Me” (Nas),

Above The Rim (1994)


In March of 1994, Death Row Records, led by Suge Knight and Dr. Dre, was still riding high off the success of Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, so when the West Coast label took on the charge of overseeing the Above The Rim soundtrack expectations were high. By calling on the film’s star 2Pac, the Death Row roster, and some of the biggest names in R&B music at the time like H-Town, Al B. Sure!, and SWV, Suge and Dre did not disappoint. The album spawned the mega-hit “Regulate” performed by Warren G and Nate Dogg and the classic B-side track “Pain” by Pac.

Key Tracks: “Regulate” (Warren G feat. Nate Dogg), “Pain” (2Pac), “Anything” (SWV), “Afro-Puffs” (The Lady of Rage)

Belly (1998)


Hype Williams is perhaps the most accomplished Hip-Hop music video director of all time. But so far in his illustrious career he has only tried to tackle directing a full length movie once. Williams’ sole feature film is 1998’s Belly starring DMX, Nas, Method Man, and T-Boz from TLC. Of course, the movie’s featured rappers/actors graced the soundtrack along with Jay-Z, Ja Rule, D’Angelo, Mya, Noreaga, and several members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Ironically (or perhaps purposely), Williams’ Belly Soundtrack was the antithesis to Hip-Hop’s “Shiny Suit Era” that he helped spark with his videos for Bad Boy artists like Puff Daddy and Ma$e.

Key Tracks: “Grand Finale” (DMX, Nas, Method Man, Ja Rule), “Devil’s Pie” (D’Angelo) “Crew Love” (Jay-Z , Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek), “Windpipe” (RZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard)

Juice (1992)


If the music from Belly was a great representation of a late 1990’s Hip-Hop sound, then the soundtrack to the film Juice paints a fairly accurate picture of the genre’s musical landscape at the beginning of the decade. Rap legends Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Salt & Pepa, Cypress Hill, Too Short, and Naughty by Nature provided the audio backdrop as Tupac Shakur’s “Bishop” faced off against Omar Epps’ “Q” to see who really had “crazy juice”. Early 90’s R&B was held down by Teddy Riley, Tammy Lucas, Aaron Hall, and Rahiem.

Key Tracks: “Juice (Know The Ledge)” (Eric B. & Rakim), “Uptown Anthem” (Naughty by Nature), “Nuff Respect” (Big Daddy Kane), “Is It Good To You” (Teddy Riley feat. Tammy Lucas)

Menace II Society (1993)


A year after Juice another urban drama hit movie theaters. The Hughes Brothers-directed film about friends trying to survive the struggles of life in South Central Los Angeles has become a cult classic, and its soundtrack is equally heralded as a Hip-Hop standard. The 17-track LP featured Cali emcees (MC Eiht, Too Short, Spice 1, Da Lench Mob, DJ Quick, Cold 187 um, Ant Banks, Kokane) as well as acts from New York (Brand Nubian, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Boogie Down Productions), Texas (UGK, Hi-Five), and Massachusetts (Guru). Menace II Society also introduced a new generation to Zapp & Roger’s classic 1985 song “Computer Love.”

Key Tracks: “Streiht Up Menace” (MC Eiht),”Trigga Gots No Heart” (Spice-1), “Unconditional Love” (Hi-Five), “Pocket Full of Stones” (UGK)

Murder Was The Case (1994)


Snoop Doggy Dogg (now known professionally as Snoop Lion) was the hottest rapper on the planet in 1994. His Dr. Dre-produced debut solo album, Doggystyle, broke sales records the previous year selling over 800,000 copies in its first week of release. Less than a year later the Long Beach, California rapper delved into movie making with the short film Murder Was The Case. Snoop teamed up with Dre again for the movie’s soundtrack. The West Coast icons mostly enlisted their fellow Death Row artists to add songs to the eventual Billboard #1 album. The compilation also featured a song by the Bloods and Crips unified group Young Soldierz.

Key Tracks: “Murder Was the Case (Remix)” (Snoop Doggy Dogg), “Natural Born Killaz” (Dr. Dre, Ice Cube), “What Would You Do” (Tha Dogg Pound), “Dollaz + Sense” (DJ Quick)

New Jersey Drive Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (1995)


New Jersey Drive the movie may not have stood up against the test of time very well, but New Jersey Drive the soundtracks have been able to survive on their own as great bodies of work. Released by Tommy Boy Records as a two-part collection two weeks a part, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 appealed to two different rap consumers – the radio listener and the underground head. Vol. 1 contained “Can’t You See,” the debut single from girl group Total. Vol. 2 contained Jeru the Damaja’s “Invasion” produced by DJ Premier. Both volumes contained a classic 1980’s throwback track; Maze & Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” (Vol.1) and Biz Markie’s “Nobody Beats the Biz” (Vol. 2).

Key Tracks Vol.1: “Can’t You See” (Total, The Notorious B.I.G.), “Benz or Beamer” (OutKast), “Where I Am?” (Redman), “East Left” (Keith Murray)

Key Tracks Vol 2: “Headz Ain’t Ready” (Black Moon, Smif-N-Wessun), “Invasion” (Jeru the Damaja), “You Won’t Go Far” (O.C., Organized Konfusion)

Rhyme & Reason (1997)


Oscar nominated filmmaker Peter Spirer’s Rhyme & Reason is one of the most prolific documentaries on Hip-Hop to ever be produced. The former member of the rock band The Toyz spoke with Chuck D, KRS-ONE, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, RZA, Wyclef Jean, and numerous other rap heavyweights to get their take on the rise of Hip-Hop as one of the most exceptional cultural movements in history. Spirer also executive produced the movie’s soundtrack, so it is understandable why so many rap stars lent their talents to the album. The gold certified LP is a note-worthy collection of the rap styles, regions, and sub-genres that were prominent in the mid-1990’s.

Key Tracks: “Nothin’ But the Cavi Hit” (Mack 10, Tha Dogg Pound), “Wild Hot” (Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest), “Is There a Heaven 4 a Gangsta?” (Master P), “Bring It Back” (KRS-ONE)

The Show (1995)


Speaking of excellent Hip-Hop docs, the Russel Simmons narrated The Show was released at a time when Hip-Hop was at a crossroads. The genre was on the cusp of completely taking over mainstream America, the New York City rap revival was underway, and earlier that same month Hip-Hop began to officially splinter between East Coast and West Coast at the 2nd Annual Source Awards. So for a moment The Show’s 27 song soundtrack represented Hip-Hop from across the nation as one united entity. Songs by 2Pac, Biggie, LL Cool J, Bone Thugs, Snoop, Tribe, Slick Rick, Warren G, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Method Man, Redman, and others were presented on the album.

Key Tracks: “How High” (Method Man, Redman), “Everyday Thang” (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony), “Everyday It Rains” (Mary J. Blige), “My Block” (2Pac), “Me And My B#### (Live)” (The Notorious B.I.G.)

Streets Is Watching (1998)


Jay-Z is now a Hip-Hop legend, one half of a billion dollar couple, artist manager, sports agent, play producer, and according to Time magazine one of the 100 most influential people in the world, but back in May of 1998 he was just a rising New York City emcee jockeying for a position in rap’s elite. After the release of his first two solo albums to moderate success, Jigga decided a try a new approach to garnering some buzz. He released the music anthology movie Streets Is Watching and its soundtrack featuring Roc-A-Fella affiliated artists Memphis Bleek, DJ Clue?, Diamonds In Da Rough, Sauce Money, and Christión. The approach seemed to help, because Jay’s next album, Vol 2… Hard Knock Life released the same year, sold over 350,000 copies in its opening week and went on to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

Key Tracks: “It’s Alright” (Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek), “Murdergram” (Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule), “In My Lifetime (Remix)” (Jay-Z), “Celebration” (Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, Sauce Money, Wais)

[ALSO READ: AllHipHop At The Movies: 42 Does Jackie Robinson Justice]