Adapted from the play Riff Raff, the soundtrack for the Laurence Fishburne film Once in the Life features a broad range of artists practicing different strains of urban music, from rap to jazz. The highlights really depend on which style of music appeals to you, but there are a few moments, such as the uplifting soul of Glen Scott's album-concluding "Without Vertigo," that truly standout. In addition to this heartfelt track, Guru's "Choices" and Nuyorican Soul's "Nautilus (MAWtilus)" also deserve attention as they brush across various styles of music, merging the meticulous musicianship of smooth jazz with the emotive evocations of soul while retaining glossy electronica production. Of course, while the broad scope of the album offers plenty of surprises, not everything will appeal to everyone, as committed hip-hop fans probably won't savor the pop/soul of the Congregation's "Train Whistle" just as soul fans probably won't appreciate the straight-up hip-hop abrasion of KRS-1's "Shadup Ya Face." It's best to keep an open mind with this soundtrack, since most of the tracks are of high quality, even if they span a broad range of styles.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier