I’ll let you in on what used to be a secret. A one-time guilty pleasure of mine was the film Poetic Justice. A film about poetry. As a teenager I was there for this. Waiting for it. I loved this movie – it’s not great, but it is charming. And I was there for Janet Jackson’s career after; pretty sure seeing her in this movie was what made me deep-dive through her catalogue. On at least some level. And I liked seeing her gig in the late-90s. It was great actually.
It was quite hard being a fan of hip-hop/R’n’B in the early 90s. Hard to do it and feel authentic. But I gave it a go. I was always interested in all sorts of things so I can’t say I tried super hard to fit in with hip-hop culture. I just, er, sampled from it.
I’ve not rewatched Poetic Justice anytime recently. But I will. I have been loving the movie’s soundtrack though. I’ve always had a thing for soundtracks – favourite films, cult films, even crap films that I warm to – I have to hear (and usually own) the soundtrack. And so it was (and is) with Poetic Justice. It was, too, a guilty pleasure for a time. But no more! I’m here to say, out and proud and loud, that I love this soundtrack album.
But, also, it’s not great.
Well, it’s great sporadically. There are bursts. And when it’s good it’s really good.
TLC’s Get It Up is a great start, Mista Grimm, Warren G and Nate Dogg’s Indo Smoke carries on the good work (love a Warren G production). But then it gets a bit wobbly. I probably like Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds now as much as I ever have. Unfortunately, that’s not a lot. And Well Alright is harmless but not one of the gems. In fact a lot of the R’n’B tracks are a let down – though Tony! Toni! Toné!’s Waiting For You is pretty superb.
There are moments that you think you’re listening to a great soundtrack – Naughty By Nature, Tha Dogg Pound with The Lady of Rage and Pete Rock and CL Smooth (One In A Million).
But there was a lot of great music in the film that didn’t get its way onto the soundtrack. Always a shame.
Imagine if The Isley Brothers’ Between The Sheets, A Tribe Called Quest’s Bonita Applebum, The O’Jay’s Backstabbers and Family Reunion were all on here too. Because they’re all in the film.
It seems particularly wrong that Janet Jackson’s Again isn’t on this compilation; she saved it for her own album though. A bit stink, but I get why that decision was made.
Tupac was an up and comer still so his Definition of a Thug Nigga is one of the real highlights – and would only end up on a posthumous 2pac record. (R.I.P.)
And much as I think this soundtrack works best when it’s all hip-hop there’s a bit of a masterstroke in having Stevie Wonder’s Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer actually on the album. A gem from 1971 – from just before he released his magic run of albums.
I don’t know, maybe this isn’t even crap at all – it’s sounding pretty fabulous now. Cultural Revolution’s Nite & Day is such a banger! So, for that matter, is Cash In My Hands by Nice & Smooth. And I was always a fan of Stanley Clarke’s movie-score work. So his piece of score here, Justice’s Groove, is great. And somehow not actually enough.
Funny how time works. When I had this record at the time I felt like a fraud, I felt self-conscious. I knew the film was hated. I knew I wasn’t cool. I didn’t care about either of those things, but I buried the soundtrack, or at least my love of it. I hid it in a big ole pile of self-effacement. Now there’s no hiding. Just correct time and place song placement. And bangers galore. But I still think of what this album could have been if swollen to a double, The Last Poets on there. Coolio. Tammy Wynette too. All of it. All of it.