One of my biggest takeaways from 2018 in hip hop is that movie companies actually tried when they put together soundtracks this year. From Superfly to Black Panther, listeners have been gifted with some very good music to accompany a couple of major blockbuster releases. Fittingly, today, Creed 2 ends the year of the soundtrack with a blast.
5. MIDNIGHT/BLESS ME (DEMO)
Who would’ve guessed that an album featuring major players like Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross will feature songs by Tessa Thompson and Ama Lou that made my top 5 list.
Though “Midnight” and “Bless Me” sound pretty different from one another, I think the ideas behind them are very similar: They are both R&B cuts that feature songstresses that are willing to show this level of vulnerability that is intriguing to listen to. No, neither of the crooners behind the songs are amazing singers, but the underdog feel they show throughout their contributions embodies what Creed is all about.
4. WE CAN HIT
Remember Crime Mob? If you do, for this limited time, you get a chance to relive their hit-making ways on “We Can Hit!” The four minute and ten second track is just as explosive as their other trunk-rattling records from back in the day, with each member in the group (And Slim Jxmmi) doing their best to provoke a fight with some violent lyrical content and aggressive rapping styles. Matter of fact, while listening to this s**t, I punched everyone in the room (including myself) for the f**k of it.
3. KILL’EM WITH SUCCESS
“Kill‘Em With Success” was actually the first single off of this album, and I thought it did a good job of setting the tone for something great. The song features this explosive ass beat by Mike WILL Made-IT that has this spooky sample in the background that had me looking behind both shoulders the whole time I was listening to it. It also boasts this very amped up hook and verse by Eearz, and two ferocious verses by ScHoolBoy Q and 2 Chainz. I swear, while listening to this s**t, I started sweating profusely.
Eearz might’ve won MVP on this album.
2. SHEA BUTTER BABY
“Shea Butter Baby” is a great reminder that this isn’t a DJ Khaled album we’re listening to, it is a soundtrack, and in soundtracks, the people behind them have to consider that some of the music on it will be featured on certain scenes in the movie. With that being said, “Shea Butter Baby” sounds like some s**t that will play in a scene where Creed makes love to his woman while the wind is blowing outside. On it, Ari Lennox puts up the performance of her life, soulfully tip-toeing the idea of diving deep in love without a safety vest. As for Cole, he does his due diligence of sounding madly in love, initially, but as the song goes on, he gives us something a bit more rugged, passionately ensuring his woman that he’ll stick by her side regardless of how funky she smells (That was my take-away).
1. THE MANTRA
Anything less than legendary for a song featuring Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar would’ve been disappointing.
“The Mantra” features this hard-hitting/emotional trap instrumental by Mike Will Made It, this very melodic/rebellious performance by Pharrell, and a pretty uplifting verse by Kendrick that starts off somber, but turns into this all out spazfest towards the end. When you combine all three, you get this dynamic hit that does everything from motivate to make you want to hop on your neighbors cars.
Pharrell isn’t the best singer in the world, but something about the way he sings has always given me Goosebumps.
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. AMEN (PRE-PRAYER FIGHT) (4/5)
2. DO YOU NEED POWER? (WALK OUT MUSIC) (4/5)
3. WE CAN HIT (ROUND 1) (4/5)
4. KILL’EM WITH SUCCESS (5/5)
5. CHECK (4.5/5)
6. FATE (4/5)
7. SHEA BUTTER BABY (4.5/5)
8. THE MANTRA (5/5)
9. WATCHING ME (4/5)
10. F.I.G.H.T. (3.5/5)
11. RUNNIN’ (3.5/5)
12. MIDNIGHT (4.5/5)
13. BLESS ME (DEMO) (4.5/5)
14. ICE COLD (FINAL ROUND) (3/5)
15. LOVE ME LIKE THAT (CHAMPION LOVE) (4/5)
As one of those music fanatics, I truly love when an album has a consistent sound. This requires everyone that is featured on that said album to be on the same page, and most importantly, a producer that is able to provide production that falls in line with whatever sound that the album is trying to achieve. With that being said, Creed II follows all of those guidelines. First and foremost, the beats that Mike WILL Made-IT (and friends) were able to deliver were fantastic, ranging from club bangers to the smoothest of the smooth. Regardless of the vibes, he made you feel something, and I thought that was extremely important when it came to this soundtrack.
The guests on this soundtrack were amazing! You had J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, Rae Sremmurd, Pharrell, Nas, Rick Ross, Michael Jordan and more. Each and every one of them either rapped like they had a fresh battery pack installed in them, or sung like one of those talented homeless people on the metro that strive for quarters. In other words, you got hungry, passionate, daring and unique efforts from the biggest names in the game, something that I think shouldn’t be overlooked at all.
Aside from the big name artists on this soundtrack, I thought the up and comers like Tessa Thompson (I am assuming she is an up and comer), Eearz and Ama Lou put up some really good performances. They brought great energy, and did their best to match the contributions their more polished counterparts put up. Don’t sleep on this aspect of the album at all, either.
I’ll be honest with you: Never did I think I would hear an album with Crime Mob and J. Cole on it. Yes, Mike WILL Made-IT and the good people behind this soundtrack did their best to hype us up, make good music and give opportunities to those on the grind. The combination embodies the underdog story that is Creed, which tells me that not only were everybody from the music execs to the producers of this soundtrack on the same page, but also that Mike WILL Made-IT’s lucky ass probably got to see early screenings of the movie…