The soundtrack from the 1998 debut film from hip-hop visionary Hype Williams consists of a hodgepodge of hip-hop and R&B. The majority of the album showcases the talent of hip-hop's heavyweights in the post-Biggie/2Pac mass-consumption era of hip-hop. The soundtrack also serves as a coming-out party for a promising next wave of MCs. The songs on the album reflect the central theme of the film: the paper chase from the disenfranchised point of view and the treacherous road to the riches that ensues. The opening track, "No Way in, No Way Out" by R. Kelly project Lady, is an R&B rendering of this central theme. The soulful D'Angelo builds poignantly on this theme with his defiant anthem "Devil's Pie," produced by the spellbinding DJ Premier. Aside from two R&B ballads (including a decent remake of Stevie Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" by Bad Boy wunderkind Jerome), the remainder of the album features a number of blazing hip-hop tracks with fierce, sinister beats and hardcore MCs committing verbal murder. On "Grand Finale," the three male stars of the film (DMX, Method Man, and Nas) team up with the growling Ja Rule for a skills exhibition over a fiery composition. DMX gets versatile on "Top Shotter," using his rabid flow over a dancehall rhythm with assists from raggamuffins Mr. Vegas and Sean Paul. Ja Rule goes solo on the icy "Story to Tell." Jay-Z collaborates with his Roc-A-Fella protégés Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek on "Crew Love." The Wu-Tang Clan chime in with the eerie "Windpipe" and Noreaga wistfully laments the loss of loved ones on the moving "Sometimes." The LOX and Made Men grab listeners by the throat on "Tommy's Theme" and the final cut, "I Wanna Live" by NAS' entourage Bravehearts, encapsulates the social Darwinistic themes of the film and soundtrack. Overall, a solid album.
AllMusic Review by M.F. DiBella