Melvin Van Peebles' groundbreaking 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, was a movie that worked on two very different levels -- as a down-and-dirty blend of action, style, and sex, it created the template for the blaxpolitation wave that would dominate grindhouses for the next decade, but at the same time it was a bold polemic that examined social, racial, and economic inequality with a stark, unblinking vision that demanded the audience rise up against oppression. Similarly, Baadasssss!, a film about the making of Sweet Sweetback written and directed by Mario Van Peebles (Melvin's son), at once tells the story of a man struggling against all odds to make a low-budget film on his own terms while offering a potent reminder of the revolutionary political and creative climate of the era in which it was made. It stands to reason that the soundtrack album to Baadasssss! would strive to be as provocative as the movie itself, and if it falls a bit short of that goal, it's not by much. Baadasssss! spins a mix of Latin and Afrocentric groove jazz sounds, canny re-creations of vintage blaxploitation-era soundtrack music, some re-recorded excerpts from the original Sweet Sweetback score (with Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, who performed on the original soundtrack, returning for a second go-round), some old-school funk from King Floyd and War, and plenty of conscious rap that offers a post-millennial spin on Van Peebles' revolutionary agenda. Baadasssss! is more ambitious than the average motion picture soundtrack album, and while it isn't an unqualified success -- the frequent leaps from one mood and genre to another make for a rather disjointed album by the time the 25th track comes to a close -- there's plenty of exciting, provocative music here, and it offers as fascinating a perspective on black music as Sweetback presented on black cinema -- and just as importantly, you can dance to it.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming