Various Artists

Beat Street [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Since it was the soundtrack to one of the first major motion pictures about hip-hop culture, it was a little disappointing that this album only contained two legitimate hip-hop songs among its nine tracks. Luckily, those two tunes happen to be classics. The Melle Mel showcase "Beat Street Breakdown" tackles everything from graffiti tagging to Armageddon with rhymes of hair-raising power, demonstrating why he was one of the greatest rappers to ever step up to the mic. And Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force's "Frantic Situation" is equally stunning from a sonic perspective, as Arthur Baker's dense, cutup mix even makes room for a trombone solo. True, there are traces of hip-hop among some of the other offerings, including the System's electro-funky "Baptize the Beat and Baker's instrumental "Breaker's Revenge." But it certainly seems unnecessary for not one but two string-soaked ballads -- "Strangers in a Strange World," the movie's official "love theme," as well as Rubén Blades' Latin lullaby "Tu Carino (Carmen's Theme)" -- to have been included, instead of another couple of rap tunes. Take away the Melle Mel and Bambaataa songs, and the album is actually less impressive than Breakin', another hip-hop movie soundtrack of the same vintage that also avoided hip-hop -- but had better alternatives than can be found here.

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