A Grab Bag Soundtrack Aims at ‘Hip-Pop’ Audience

The modern-day movie soundtrack can be described as the music industry’s version of a mixed tape: It brings together artists of different styles and genres for the open-minded music listener’s enjoyment.

At their best, soundtracks are a music fan’s dream come true. Where else can a listener find a majority of his or her favorite artists all on the same disc without having to labor over the computer, downloading song after song just to put them on a blank Memorex CD? Past hip-hop soundtracks, such as “Sunset Park,” and more recent ones, like “Brown Sugar” are perfect examples of impressive movie companions.

At their worst though, soundtracks are a record label’s way of “introducing” new talent alongside established artists. The problem with this is that in many cases these new artists fail to impress, leaving the better-known acts to hold the entire weight.

The soundtrack to the new Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer-driven comedy “Barbershop” unfortunately falls into the latter category. The disc is an upbeat and vibrant array of easy listening, yet mostly generic, hip-hop music. I do not recommend it for fans of hardcore rap or anti-pop compositions.

Those who put this soundtrack together wisely placed the strongest tracks at the beginning of the disc, allowing the listener to enjoy six straight winners before slowly being engulfed in a series of bland R&B and uninspired melodies.

After a brief Cedric the Entertainer audio clip introduction, the festivities begin with the winning combination of Fabolous, P. Diddy and Jagged Edge on “Trade It All Part 2.”

Over a bouncy bass line and sporadic guitar riff supplied by DJ Clue and Duro, Fab and Diddy spit game to potential female companions while Jagged Edge provides the catchy R&B hook. It results in a formulaic yet undeniably infectious, radio-friendly rap.

Next up is the always reliable crooner Ginuwine, who comes through with “Stingy,” a soulful and captivating piece of R&B perfection. Coming off the strength of his smash hit “Differences,” Ginuwine continues his impressive streak of modern-day classics for the R&B genre.

Glenn Lewis and Amel Larrieux team up for the dreamy atmosphere of “What’s Come Over Me?,” soothing the listener’s ears with their superior vocal talents. The usually rough-edged Wu Tang Clan representative Ghostface Killah successfully joins forces with Ruff Endz to show his soft side on “Love Session” the track rides the same beat used by Joe and Case on their past hit “Faded Pictures.”

Ghostface’s romantic change of style is followed by the second appearance of P. Diddy on “And We,” this time supported by his Bad Boy Records family and Foxy Brown. Over a Bink-produced head-nodder, the Bad Boy crew skillfully attacks the track, one after the other.

It is after “And We” that this disc begins to falter. TRL favorites 3LW and B2K offer “Could’ve Been You” and “Baby Girl (Terri’s Theme),” respectively. While the 3LW track is forgettable, B2K provides some enjoyment but fail to capture the spirit of their recent singles.

Lil’ Fizz of B2K resurfaces as he comes to the side of newcomer Jhene on “Sneaky.” An unimpressive mixture of generic vocals and a pathetic rap by Lil’ Fizz will force the listener to hit the skip button on the CD player. Lil’ Kano, yet another hip-hop artist to adopt the worn-out “Lil'” moniker, appears with “Ben,” which is painful to the ears and almost laughable at times.

The weak middle section of the disc is rounded out by new acts like Jordan Brown, Collin and Best Man, who all supply even more formulaic R&B attempts.

The disc is thankfully concluded with some familiar ear candy in the form of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up (Part 1)” and The Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There.” Both tracks will instantly bring a smile to the listener’s mug with their classic soul and light-hearted energy.

In the end, the “Barbershop” soundtrack is a mediocre movie companion at best. In a time when the hip-hop music climate is full of copycat raps and uninspired compositions, this soundtrack will most likely join the sadly crowded collection of forgettable releases to come out recently.

All in all, being aimed at those yearning for more “hip-pop” and radio ready music the disc is not a complete waste of time, as long as the listener understands that heavy amounts of creativity and originality are not included.