Rap has changed a lot since the '80s -- not only in terms of rapping techniques, but also in terms of production styles (which can vary considerably from one part of the U.S. to another, or from one country to another). However, some of the subject matter that was prominent in '80s hip-hop was still prominent in the early '00s. Inner-city crime has been one of rap's most prominent themes since the early '80s -- when Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five made history with 1982's sobering "The Message" -- and it was still a prominent theme in the early '00s. Assembled by the L.A.-based Activate Entertainment in 2001, the soundtrack to the film Thug Lifestyles is, for the most part, a collection of above-average West Coast gangsta rap. Not everything on this CD is on the gangsta trip. For example, Original P's infectious "Atomic Dawg 2001" (which is based on George Clinton's "Atomic Dog") isn't about thug life -- it is a humorous description of a man's quest for sexual pleasure. But inner-city thug life is the CD's dominant theme, and the West Coast is represented by such California gangsta rappers as Above the Law on "Pawns," Spice 1 on "20/20s," the South Central Cartel on "Huh What," and Legion Squad on "Where Ya From." The opening "No More Games" finds Snoop Doggy Dogg joining forces with reggae artist Prince Ital Joe -- an interesting combination, and the end results are more gangsta rap than reggae. Some of the artists are not from the West Coast; Original P is from Detroit, while Mike West and Mopreme Shakur's ominous "Never Saw Me Comin'" is right out of rap's Dirty South school. Nonetheless, West Coast gangsta rap is the thing that does the most to define this noteworthy soundtrack.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson