In 1971 African American film director Melvin Van Peebles had a Richard Pryor moment. Fed up with presenting an acceptable version of blackness for The Man he figured it was time for something more confrontational. Something that would have the early 70's audience leaving the theatre thinking 'fuck yeah'. Essentially, a film that would stick it to The Man. Studios however where unlikely to want to fund such an outing. Having convinced a then relativity unknown group called Earth, Wind and Fire to record a soundtrack, Melvin took the innovative move of releasing the soundtrack in advance of the movie. Not only did this raise capital, it also promoted the movie in a way his non existent marketing budget would not have allowed. The film was Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. While arguably not Blaxsploitation as such itself, it paved the way for the birth of the genre. There was a market for confrontational, strong black characters kicking ass to funky beats. The Man may not have been too keen on the rising black radicalism of the late 60's and early 70's, but just like his fictional representation in the Blaxploitation films he did like money. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song's had in simple terms made a boat load of cash from a very small outlay. The Soundtrack had been a smash hit and tied funk and the fledging movie genre together in a way that had not happend before and has never really happened since. Cult classics like Shaft and Superfly where to follow, with soundtracks by Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield respectively.
So when Scott Sanders and Michael Jai White decided to create Black Dynamite, their loving homage to the genre , they knew it had to have a soundtrack to match. Scott called on friend and fellow DJ Adrian Younge, who set about writing and recording the music in his spare time. The self taught multi-instrumentalist playing around 15 different instruments across the album. Utilising analogue equipment has enabled Younge to produce a sound more akin to classic pre-80's recordings. However while there's no denying the ghosts of funk legends living and dead alike can be heard clearly in the musics influences there's also something distinctly modern and fresh about this set. I think that comes from Adrian being a beat digger. 30 years or more has passed since many original funk recordings where made. At least 20 since Hip Hops beatdigging late 80's golden age. This gives a modern musician a lot of insight into not just what works, but what really works. Its pretty likely everyone you have ever met has heard the Amen Break in some form or another, but almost no one could tell you anything about the track it comes from. Essentially this means the Black Dynamite score sounds like a record one would dream of unearthing in a lost dusty corner somewhere. Also while 70's deep funk is the primary influence there's a distinctly Euro-funk / library music influence which would not have been present at the time. Drawing influences particularly from Morricone and his lesser known compardres, men who created some of the best soundtrack music you've probably never heard. Primarily a funk set there's a hint heavy soul here, but thankfully the jazz influence is kept at a minimum and the dreaded disco-funk does not rear it's ugly head.
Though the film is a comedy homage, a loving parody if you like, this is a serious soundtrack. Sure the opening song in particular "Black Dynamites Themes" does contain some wildly funny exaggeration, but that's just channelling the spirit of Rudy Ray Moore. All the vocals are spot on really evoking the kind of emotion you hear in tracks from the period. I've listened to this album a lot since I got it and some of the highest praise I can give it as a complete set is I've never skipped a track once. It really is to quote the oft used phrase 'all killer, no filler'. For me the highlights being Jimmy's Dead and Chicago Wind, but with the love that went into creating this its a close run thing.
Much like Van Peeble's movie all those years ago Black Dynamite has found itself given an exceedingly limited release (Though I'm sure it will be popular on DVD). So chances are unless you've bittorented it (which is bound to happen when studios treat anticipated films like this) you have not seen the movie. Don't let that stop you picking up the soundtrack in advance however, after all that's what they did with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Impress your friends and stick it to The Man with one simple purchase.
Adrian "AJ" Younge - "Shot Me In The Heart" (Black Dynamite OST)
Black Dynamite - Posters
Black Dynamite - Trailer
Check out the official site at www.blackdynamite.com
Listen to Chicago Wind below: