Few people have the clout to put together a show with a line up boasting the likes of Kanye West, The Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Dead Prez, John Legend and Cody ChestnuTT. Even fewer people could cap that line up off with an estranged trio that hasn’t worked together in nearly a decade. I am, of course, referring to The Fugees. But stand up comedian/actor turned pop culture phenomenon Dave Chappelle has just that kind of clout and he pulled off this feat as his much talked about Block Party in Brooklyn last year.
It isn’t easy to review an album like this, as it is basically just a companion piece to the Block Party Movie. It is 11 dope songs performed live at Chappelle’s jam. It isn’t everything that was performed, just selected tracks. Unfortunately, the omissions will likely get more attention than the additions. Most notably, it is The Fugees who are absent from the soundtrack, which is quite disappointing. The other big draw, the indomitable Kanye West, is also M.I.A. It is likely that it is the omni-present record label bullshit keeping both acts from appearing. It’s a shame whatever the reason.
Fortunately there is plenty of Hip Hop goodness to take your mind off the missing persons. Mos Def’s infectious energy is captured on wax on several cuts; the Black Star selection “Definition” and the always classic “Umi Says” and “Universal Magnetic.” Despite his hoarse voice Talib still holds it down with Mos and on “The Blast.” Both of The Roots moments are golden as “Boom!” actually features Big Daddy Kane and G Rap rather than Black Thought just doing spot on imitations of them. For “You Got Me” both Jill Scott and Erykah Badu share the hook. For those unaware, it was originally Jilly from Philly who sang the hook before the label demanded a bigger name which led to using Badu. The cherry on the sundae comes with the inclusion of a new Black Star track “Born and Raised” – very slick.
As far as companion pieces go, this album is really only necessary if you must have the full version of the songs that appear in the movie. Some of you may be able to do with out, some may need this. Personally I wouldn’t call it a must-have album to go with the excellent movie, but it is dope stuff, so make a judgment call.