Death Row Records’ entire catalog is back on streaming, which is a good time to remind you that the soundtrack to ‘Above The Rim’ is the greatest movie soundtrack of all time

OPINION: The West Coast soundtrack to the 1994 East Coast basketball film starring Tupac Shakur, Leon and Duane Martin is better than everything else. 

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

In news that might not have hit your radar — or that you maybe didn’t realize was necessary — Snoop Dogg, the current owner of Death Row Records, returned the label catalog to streaming services on March 9th.  Upon purchasing the iconic label in February 2022, he pulled the catalog — which includes classics like his own “Doggystyle,” Tupac’s “All Eyez On Me,” and, of course, Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic,” (among many others) — because he didn’t feel the platforms paid appropriately for streams. One of those classic bodies of work that was recently returned to streaming is the soundtrack to the 1994 cinematic classic, “Above The Rim,” which reminds me that it’s never a bad time to point out that said soundtrack is the best movie soundtrack of all time. And it’s not even a close race. 

Now, most reasonable people probably agree with that statement. Every year when people get to arguing about best this-or-that and movie soundtracks come up, “Above The Rim” is in the conversation and usually without much debate or pushback. But every so often, somebody tosses in another film soundtrack. And there are some plausible contenders, I suppose. For instance, I really enjoy the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack. Classic songs by Whitney Houston, Brandy and Mary J. Blige alone put it in rare company. Same with the soundtrack to “Boomerang,” which like “Waiting to Exhale,” was largely written and produced by Babyface (he did the entirety of the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack; he and L.A. Reid did most of “Boomerang.”)

But the truth is, like the cheese, “Above The Rim” stands alone. I’d love to make the case, if you don’t mind. You don’t? Awesome. 

Let’s start with the most factual fact of the entire matter: the “Above The Rim” soundtrack contains AT LEAST seven classic records. And I say at least because you could argue it has nine, but I’m not sure the other two that I will name are unanimous. So let’s start with the non-debatable classic records. “Anything (All-Star Remix)” by SWV, “Part-Time Lover” by H-Town, “Big Pimpin’” by Tha Dogg Pound featuring Nate Dogg, “Regulate” by Warren G. and Nate Dogg, “Pour Out A Little Liquor,” by Tupac, “Afro Puffs” by The Lady of Rage and “Pain” by Tupac and Stretch. That’s seven. But I’m willing to include “Old Time’s Sake” by Sweet Sable and “Loyal to The Game” by Tupac, Treach and Riddler. That’s nine records and if you want to get frisky I think Jewell’s “It’s Not Deep Enough,” B Rezell’s “Blowed Away,” and 2nd II None’s “Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” are standout songs as well. 

That’s 12 songs on a 21 song soundtrack. And I didn’t even include my absolute favorite song on the soundtrack, “Hoochies Need Love Too,” by Paradise, which is simultaneously one of the most scary yet introspective songs of all time. Seriously, one day somebody needs to do a documentary on her catalog. I have no idea if she has any non-soundtrack songs (she has a song on the soundtracks for both “Deep Cover” and “Gang Related”) but “Hoochies Need Love Too” needs a whole documentary and eight-part docudrama series. 

I don’t care who you are, any ALBUM with 21 records where more than 50 percent of them are legitimate classic records with filler songs that could also double as singles on any record is unbeatable. It just is, including three ACTUAL hip-hop classic record in “Regulate,” “Pain” and “Pour Out A Little Liquor.” SWV’s “Anything (Remix)” is a staple of ANY ’90s party. The album is chock full of really good, live-forever records. 

And here’s the thing that puts the soundtrack over the top: The entire soundtrack had a west coast feel for a movie set in New York City in 1994. Consider this: The lead single for the soundtrack was “Regulate” by Warren G. and Nate Dogg, and chronicles being jacked in their Long Beach, Calif., neighborhood. This is the lead single for a movie whose defining scenes happen at one of the most famous streetball courts in history: the Greg Marius Court at Holcombe Rucker Park, aka “The Rucker.” And it worked. The whole thing just …worked. 

So yes, I’m of the opinion that “Above The Rim” has the greatest movie soundtrack of all time for all of those reasons. There are a bunch of movie soundtracks worth listening to, but when we’re talking the best, “Above The Rim” is the only choice. 

Regulators … mount up.

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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