The black-and-yellow artwork might make you think of a Tarantino soundtrack – namely the Kill Bill collections – but that’s not the only similarity between the Luke Cage score and the music that Tarantino picks for his movies. Over 50 tracks of mostly original material (with some choice cuts from soul singers Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings), the soundtrack to Marvel’s latest smash TV series is a mélange of effortlessly cool grooves rooted in classic soundtracks from the Blaxsploitation era, and born of a collaboration between composer Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, rapper with game-changing hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest.
Though the soundtrack starts with the faultless vocal cuts – including The Delfonics’ haunting ‘Stop And Look (And You Have Found Love)’ – Younge and Muhammad’s collaborations are where it really comes into its own. ‘Final Battle – Part 1’ is a dizzying mix of Philly soul strings, pounding drums and squelchy synth lines that are twisted and cranked up to 10 for ‘Final Battle – Part 2’. Elsewhere, ‘Blue Fusion’ starts as a more plaintive, even foreboding piece right out of the Shaft rulebook, segueing into a percussive jazz groove that even looks to bebop legend Max Roach for inspiration.
In lesser hands, it all might have come off as mere pastiche, but Younge has form (he soundtracked the 2009 Blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite and co-produced Ghostface Killah’s 2013 album, Twelve Reasons To Die), and Muhammad is a hip-hop legend who’s worked with enough original 70s soul to know how stay on the right side of authenticity. In all, it means that Luke Cage is one of the breakout successes of the year.