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Blade: A Necrospective (Part 1)

Let’s talk about some firsts. Many people see the new gaggle of Marvel comic book movies and would point to the first Fox X-Men movie as the launching point for this wave of modern superheroic cinematics. They would be dead ass wrong. Some point to Deadpool as the first really successful R rated comic book movie. Again, wrong. Black Panther as the first major black hero in a movie? Bitch, please.

Blade was first. If not for Blade there likely wouldn’t have been an X-Men movie. Now sure, the Crow came before Blade, but that wasn’t a major market comic. And we will get to the Crow at a later point, because those soundtracks were epic also, but for now we are focused on Blade.

If you read the comics, specifically Tomb of Dracula, you know a different version of Blade than what we got in this first film. Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan were amazing, and Tomb of Dracula was one of the best comic titles running. It was here that we first met Blade. He was a khaki clad 70’s cliché for the most part. And back then his only ability was immunity to vampirism. In the 90’s the character took a shift in the comics. Much can be said for the influence on Vampire : The Masquerade and how all versions of vampires shifted due to it’s influence, and Blade was certainly no exception.

But also in the 90’s, music was shifting. Hip-hop was coming into more mainstream prominence, and electronic and rave bands were all the rage. The first Blade soundtrack was a snapshot into that time. Into that world. And while pulling in heavily from two different genres, it did an amazing job of presenting a single narrative. This trend continued with each successive soundtrack.

Blade got 3 good movies, and an incredibly under rated TV series. Like the character itself, the idea of Blade on film just wont die, and Marvel is now developing a new Blade film starring Mahershala Ali. He seems a pretty good pick, but let’s hope they also keep the soundtrack in mind during this next launch of the character. If we judge by the Netflix series, specifically Luke Cage (where Ali first played a character in the Marvel Universe) then the soundtrack could be amazing. But as the MCU seems intent on severing all ties to the Netflix properties, let’s just hope they at least look back to what came before and use it as a template for the new soundtrack. Thus far, only the Guardians movies have really had any sort of soundtrack to speak of. And with the time jumping of some of the films, it is a sorely missed opportunity.

But enough about that, let’s look back at the first Blade soundtrack and see what made it so amazing.

Track 1 : The Edge of the Blade by Mystikal

Time : 4:12

First up, someone else getting some news recently. But let’s not talk about any of that and let’s focus on this track. It opens the disc strong. The 90’s was the heyday of this aggressive style of hip-hop. From DMX to Onyx to the OG Busta, but Mystikal had a pretty unique voice in this style. Partly because of how well he can enunciate. He is aggressive but still very clear.

This song has a fairly repetitive chorus refrain, and it is a bit on the head for this disc. But it thumps pretty well all the way through. No mistake, this is a song about this movie, for this movie. And it starts us off pretty well. We think we know what we are in for.

Track 2 : ½ & ½ by Gang Starr & M.O.P.

Time : 4:17

Here we have some real underground cred. Mash Out Posse had yet to even Ante Up at this point, but both these units were well established in underground hip-hop by this time. They had worked together in various forms before this, and they would do so again after. But this song is a fairly mellow loop based track with decent vocals. They are both aggressive style vocalist groups, but this track find them very subdued.

Nowadays this would be called retro low fi hip-hop. Back in ’98? That was just what was.

This song also sounds like it was written specifically for the movie, although the lines are more suggestive of the world of Vampires. It fits well with the theme of the disc, and continues from where our first track started us off. There is a common thread, and it seems it might continue through the rest of these tracks.

Track 3 : Blade by KRS-One & Channel Live

Time : 3:11

Channel Live was a duo that were discovered by KRS-One, who they appear on this track with. Their career didn’t last very long. Almost everything of note they released had then working with KRS-One. This track kind of shines a spotlight on that. I mean, he is KRS fucking One. Who is going to be on a track with him and be anything up back up?

People don’t rap no more, all they do is dis (apparently they don’t dance either, but that’s another story), but KRS is certainly rapping. And he is rapping about the movie. Kind of. This is a solid track all around. But while half the lyrics seem to be talking about Blade, and they name drop Snipes, the actual verse starts going a bit more general. Very much a standard “I write rhymes, don’t challenge me” type rhyme.

But KRS-One is ALWAYS on point. This track is no exception, and it continues the theme of this disc very well.

Track 4 : Fightin a War by Down 2 Earth and Rome

Time : 4:01

 Not a straight hip-hop fan? Ready for a shift? Well, this kind of changes tone a bit. This track is really a highlight of this disc for me. Have you heard of these performers? Rome has had a long career, and he still pops up from time to time, but never really hit any big success.

D2E, the chosen men (hey, they lyrics, not my words). Yeah, during the heyday of white boy bands, they were one of them. One from the UK. Speaking of one, that’s how many albums they released I believe. Rome only had one album out at this time, his debut that came out in December the year before this. But damn does he have an amazing tone. And this song just works. It has a bit of a funk drive to the bass. The drums are sparse letting the vocals shine through. And Rome is just amazing on the chorus.

I thought for sure we would hear more from these six guys back in the day. That didn’t seem to happen. But at least we have this song, this wonderful combination of talents. Fantastic stuff.

Track 5 : Reservations by P.A.

Time : 4:26

Dark. Dungeon Family. This band was another underground southern hip-hop group, and seems to continue the theme of this disc. A lot of unknowns, or little knowns, getting their chance to shine. And shine they do. P.A. stands for Parental Advisory, and the theme of their song seems to fit that billing. We are still firmly in hip-hop territory on this disc at this point, and this is another excellent offering.

A slow pulse to a gangsta rap type verse, this is straight up horror core. There is not much to be said about this track. It is a solid offering, and the disc takes a mellow turn here. Dungeon Family are pretty well known for playing many of their instruments live in studio for their records. Thos live plays may be sampled and sliced at some point, but on this track we clearly have a drum machine (doesn’t sound like just a standard 808), but most of the other sounds seems to be live instrumentation, with good ole analog effects. It has a nice sound to it. This song is pretty solid all around.

Track 6 : Gangsta Bounce by Wolfpak

Time : 5:27

See that promo pic up there? That’s about the only think you will find by this particular group using the name Wolfpak other than the song on this soundtrack. This song? It is very horror core. It is mellow. It has a very Bone/Thugs feels to it. And for me, this is a throwaway.

Now some people just love this song. They think it has a real vibe. I don’t hate the song, but I don’t love it. Of all the songs on this disc, I think this one is the most mediocre. That’s doesn’t mean it’s bad. It isn’t. You might hear it and think it is the best track on the whole disc. Maybe.

Track 7 : Things Ain’t The Same by Kasino

Time : 4:33

Kimani Kasino Davis. This right here is very active in his community. He does mentorships, community outreach, etc. You know what else he has? A pretty damn good flow. This track turns from the horror core edge of the previous few tracks and just gives us a nice slice of 90’s hip-hop.

By the way, that’s “Kay See No”, needs no intro. Well, apparently you did need an intro, because I would have pronounced it like Casino if not for this song. This intro. But this track has a narrative to tell, and lyrically does just that. It almost beckons back to even later 80’s hip-hop, where a single voice, a simple loop, and a sparse drum track was all you needed.

That’s all you’ve ever really needed.

Track 8 : Deadly Zone by Bounty Killer, Big Noyd and Mobb Deep

Time : 5:00

Wow. This is quite a collection on this track. But the real stand out? Bounty Killer. It is like horror core, reggae, aggressive southern hip-hop all got together and had a love bastard. This track is oddly not as aggressive as some of the others on this disc, but the reggae infused vide definitely make it stand out. Mobb Deep (and their frequent collaborator Big Noyd) are as solid as ever.

By this point, if you watched the movie, you are beginning to wonder where the hell all the techno went. Spoiler here, the later soundtracks embraced the hardcore techno industrial vibe quite a bit more than this one did. But this was a gold record and did very well on a mostly hip-hop framework.

Track 9 : Blade 4 Glory by Bizzy Bone and Majesty

Time : 3:45

Remember when I said a track sounded like Bone Thugs and Harmony earlier? Well, not we actually have Bizzy Bone with his frequent collaborator Majesty, and it sounds nothing at all like a BTnH track. It has a weird techno underpinning vibe, and they keep doing this repetitive vocal thing for a chorus that starts to deconstruct the words Blade and murder almost.

This is definitely another song clearly written for this film, about the character of this film. And in the late 90’s, Bizzy was a massive name in hip-hop. They were drawing massive talent for this soundtrack. We can argue if his best years were before or after this…. Or if he even had good years for some of you I suppose. But this song is also the break point of this disc. It is, like I said, a bit weird, and things start to shift from here on out.

Track 10 : Strictly Business by EPMD and Mantronik

Time : 3:36

Influential early hip-hop and techno DJ Mantronik (of his band Mantronix) teamed up with the legends EPMD? Ok, things are starting to shift. A pure rap rave track, this song just flows out of your speakers. This song seems to be a hint at what the future of not just this disc might bring, but music and soundtracks in general for the next few years.

Often a DJ might remix a song and lose the flow of the vocals. Their technical juggling is more important sometimes than the song. It may shift in pitch, it may stutter or scratch, it might warp in various ways, and the vocal gets lost in the twists. That never happens here. This is a perfect example of letting each element be the star of their part of the show, without intruding on the other facet.

This is one of the stronger songs on this disc.

Track 11 : Wrek Tha Discotek by Roger Sanchez featuring Soulson

Time : 6:13

Continuing our epic DJ trend, this track brings us world renowned DJ Roger Sanchez! But who the hell is Soulson? I honestly have little to no information on who he is. Search. Go ahead, I will wait. Yeah, he lays down some awesome vocals on this amazing track. And then, he is apparently never heard from again.

But what about this track? Wow. We are now firmly in the hip-hop techno hybrid zone now. Some of the sound choices are just brilliant. You may even get a Tarantino vibe from this track, or feel like a dramatic hamster. So far this is the longest track also. Right at the half way point it decides, you know what, fuck ending this, let’s just keep going. And with a Deacon Front (Played by Stephen Dorf) sample, this song was written specifically for the movie.

Surprisingly, it isn’t the song played when Blade does indeed wreck a discotheque of sorts. But this song could be played during any action scene in any action movie and we would love it. This song just rocks.

Track 12 : Confusion by New Order (Pump Panel Reconstruction Mix)

Time : 10:12

Yeah, that pic up there shows New Order. They had two albums by this time, but their biggest hits came from releases that were only singles. Yeah, even before online streaming services allowed people to cash in on just one song at a time, many bands released singles and Eps in the 80’s to stay active. In 1983 they released what might be their 2 most popular songs with Blue Monday and Confusion.

That is NOT the Confusion you are hearing here. This is also a song not written specifically written for this movie. And yet, it has become synonymous with this film. Why? Well, it is the song played at the infamous opening blood rave. This remix sounds almost nothing at all like its original inspiration. The basic melody line is there, the bones of the song so to speak with all the meat removed. While the original track sounded very much like the instrumentation that early hip-hop would use, almost an Afrika Bambaataa sound, this is straight ahead techno rave fuel.

And … It … Fucking … Thumps …

Yeah sure, we all wish Traci Lords would drag us to a secret underground rave. Some of us would even be OK with the idea that we were about to be drenched in blood. The feasted upon bit is a bit off-putting. But with this song thumping? Yeah, just go with it. Dance damn it!

This song, like the scene it is in, just builds. It starts with a droning beat, and if you are attentive to these things, it shifts up a few BPM right after the intro. That driving bass just keeps kicking, and this is by far the longest track on the disc. It is also the best track on the disc. It is a track worth the price of the whole disc itself, and may actually account for a lot of it’s sales figures.

This song, and it’s use in the film, is an example of the perfect fusion of visual and audio. Like some of the things we love about The Crow, or The Matric, or many other movies that know just how to use music as an extra character in a scene, this one just works so well.

Track 13 : Playing With Lightning by Expansion Union

Time : 4:31

And the hard hitting techno just doesn’t stop. This track is following the best track on the disc, so how does it hold up? Really damn well. This is another incredibly produced hard techno beat. The Expansion Union were a duo of James Bernard and Displacer. Bernard is still very active musically, but there isn’t much info on just who Displacer actually was.

They weren’t really a duo for too long, but this track is pretty spectacular. We are in hard techno zone still with this soundtrack, and this song more than holds its own. As we hear the final few tracks of this disc, we may see what drives the song choices for the future soundtracks in this series. Full disclosure, I love this soundtrack, but it isn’t my favorite of the three. It might be my least favorite. But it is still pretty amazing.

Track 14 : Dig This Vibe by DJ Krush

Time : 4:54

I guess when you find your best friends finger wrapped in paper at your desk, that is your wake-up sign to get the hell out of the Yakuza. At least, that’s how Hideaki Ishi (AKA DJ Krush) took it. And boy are we glad he did. This track wasn’t specifically for the film, as it was on one of his releases from a few years before this, but it’s mellow ambient vibe is a great wind down after the previous few tracks.

The xylophone sounds are muted on this track, never stepping in front of the drums, which sounds like a very simple jazz hit with only a few sounds needed to make a killer groove. There aren’t many more elements here. Just simple and layered sounds. The end result is a very trippy vibe as the pitch shifting kicks in during the later third of the song.

Mellow. Nice.

Track 15 : Dealing With The Roster by Junkie XL

Time : 5:33

Want to see a full career in soundtrack work? Look no further than Tom Holkenborg, AKA Junkie XL. This final track to the disc sends us off in fine fashion. Another driving techno beat, this is another song that was released before it’s selection for this soundtrack. It seems the hip-hop side was far more spontaneous, and the techno side was more curated.

That in no way means the track doesn’t fit in. It its in incredibly. The break in the song where the tone shifts, and we get some filter sweeps is pretty awesome. The ending is disappointing in that we want to hear more, but it cuts it short before we are done with this track. Always leave your audience wanting more I suppose.

Conclusion :

So that rounds out all 15 tracks of the first Blade soundtrack. If you were a fan of hip-hop in the 90’s, let alone some underground stuff, this soundtrack was kind of a clarion call. Not everyone who was spotlighted here went on to have a long career, but the songs they put forth on this disc are pretty great top to bottom.

Not a rap fan? Well, there are 5 amazing techno tracks rounding this one out, and at least one track that straddles the line between rap and techno. I question the organization of songs here, especially when you see where the ones more prominently used in the movie occur. Maybe alternating between a rap track and a techno track might have kept interest up for some folks, but as a fan of hip-hop and techno, I enjoyed it all the way through.

So where can we possibly go from here? Well, the sequel of course…… but that’s another article.

David Maynor