RZA

Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack

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The soundtrack to the anime series Afro Samurai is executive produced and, for the most part, also produced by the RZA, the ideal option to apply hip-hop to Japanese animation. The RZA has always been known for his deep admiration of the martial arts, and he knocked his first scoring opportunity -- Ghost Dog, which is best heard on the JVC Japan edition -- out of the park. With credits for Kill Bill and Blade Trinity also under his belt, he smoothly transitions into Afro Samurai, composing a hard-hitting intro, several incidental pieces, and a handful of MC-led tracks, with brief appearances from the likes of Big Daddy Kane, GZA, Talib Kweli, Suga Bang, and himself. On Ghost Dog, he worked a sparse, gritty gracefulness; here, the feel is more epic, sleek, and turbulent, with dialogue (including plenty from Samuel L. Jackson as Afro, the protagonist in search of avenging his father's killers) laid over a generous amount of the score material. A pair of nearly torrid, reverb-heavy slow jams come from R&B duo Stone Mecca, who sound somewhat contemporary while owing much to Michael Henderson's and Prince's steamiest falsetto ballads (and that's no gripe). Another outside R&B cut, produced by M1 and featuring vocalist Maurice, is too pleasant and clean-cut to really fit into the flow of the program. As a bonus, or an enticement for RZA fans who might feel skeptical about a project not wholly reliant on RZA and rhymes, four tracks from a future Bobby Digital album are added.

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