It is with some trepidation that one approaches a soundtrack, knowing that it has been used primarily as a marketing tool for a movie. But as much as one may not like to admit it, the majority of art, and music especially, is created with the idea of the market in mind. In many ways the Cradle 2 The Grave soundtrack exemplifies this notion, but shows that even under this pressure, solid beats can be made. It is unfortunate that the movie, starring Jet Li and DMX, could not be as bumpin’ as the soundtrack that represents it.
On that note, this soundtrack might even convey a little bit of wisdom, a rarity for marketable hip-hop these days. DMX attacks the mike on the soundtrack, coming through concentrated and sharp especially on “It’s Gon’ Be What It’s Gon’ Be,” reminding his fans that even if he has gone Hollywood, the mike is not far from his hand. The other artists represented here, including Eminem, 50 Cent and the G-Unit, Foxy Brown, Profit, Comp and Drag On, among others, put together some quality rap tracks.
DMX opens up the album with “X Gon’ Give It To Ya.” It starts out with a pretty sweet beat, a little bit of trumpet, but when the beat finally drops and DMX picks up the mike, it just gets better. It’s catchy, and you can’t help but bump your head to this beat. The lyrics aren’t particularly gifted, but they do have heart: “Don’t give up you’re too strong/ A dog to bow bow hug it / Shoutout to niggaz that done it / And it ain’t even about the dough / It’s about gettin down for what you stand for yo.” Like all rappers, DMX is grappling with making music and the consequences making money has on your music, though I’m not sure I believe that it isn’t, at least partially, about the dough.
Eminem, DMX and Obie Trice all came together for the next track. The smooth rhyming of Obie with the fast-rhyming fury of Eminem and the power alto of DMX make this track an ode to solid rhyming. Bazaar Royale, a DMX protégé, attempts to reunite rock and hip-hop in “What’s it all For,” an effort that ends up being chaotic; there is no unifying beat, element, or strong voice on the mike.
The man of the moment 50 Cent and the G-Unit come strong on “Follow Me Gangster.” As he has already proved, 50 Cent can hold his own. With his slow smooth style, he is almost reminiscent of Biggie, and his rhymes come across as genuine and with a character that has been lacking in rap as of late. The man could spout Shakespeare with his sense of rhythm and the heart-beat. “When I got O’d up, my heart turned colder/ That’s why the mac react like a king cobra/ Now I’m jumpin’ out of Rovers, in Gucci loafers.”
Drag On samples a little Curtis Mayfield, his “Pusherman” in their “Fireman,” and while it isn’t Mayfield, one can’t help but love the sample, and the manipulation of the lyrics is catchy: “I’m that hood, I’m those streets / I’m them lyrics enemies / I’m that weed, I’m that X / I’m that sex, that you need / I’m that nigga, wit yo’ wife / Sound like plumber, playing pipe / I’m that match, that you light / when you ain’t got no life / I’m your fireman.”
This album, with a healthy grip of strong tracks, is definitely comprised of mainstream hip-hop, but it is mainstream hip-hop through the voices of people who were once very much on the outside. There was a time when Eminem had never won a Grammy and no one on this record was wearing Guccis. Everyone gets a little caught up in underground sometimes, but for spinning something out to market a movie, the Cradle 2 The Grave soundtrack actually contains a lot of decent beats and lyrics. These rappers hold their own on this album in the face of succumbing to enjoying the mighty dollar. I don’t think Q-Tip can say that.