DAR Music: R&B Music Soundtracks Of The 90s

By @TrueGodImmortal

Movie soundtracks have always been vital to the culture. Though in short supply now, there was a time where we all looked forward to hearing the music inspired by the motion picture. This was never more prevalent than in the 1990s, where R&B and hip hop dominated the musical landscape and movies that impacted black culture were aplenty. Today, we decided to take a look back at the movie soundtracks of the 90s, but with a twist: we're only talking the R&B soundtracks that dropped. Hip hop permeated the soundtracks of Juice, Menace II Society, Boyz N The Hood, Above The Rim, Sunset Park, and more, but R&B is responsible for the best soundtracks of the 90s. Don't believe me? Read on.

*Boomerang (1992)

-I had to start off the list with my personal favorite soundtrack and one of my personal favorite movies (word to the "Plight of Marcus Graham"). The Eddie Murphy powered film was a great watch, but much like many films in the 90s, the music helped elevate it even more. From the New Jack Swing sounds of the Babyface and Toni Braxton collab "Give U My Heart" to the iconic "I'd Die Without You" by PM Dawn to the legendary Boyz II Men track "End Of The Road" all the way down to the seductive track "There U Go" by Johnny Gill, this soundtrack had everything you'd want musically. Another hidden gem is the smooth song "Feels Like Heaven" by Kenny Vaughan and The Art of Love, which infamously played during a love scene in the film.

Top 3 Songs
"Babyface and Toni Braxton- Give U My Heart"
"Johnny Gill- There U Go"
"Boyz II Men- End of the Road" 

*The Best Man (1999)

-One of the more underrated soundtracks of the decade, this was a blend of Neo-Soul and your traditional R&B sound, and it worked tremendously well. Whether the smooth Maxwell songs "Let's Play The Game" and "As My Girl", the fitting Eric Benet track "Poetry Girl", or the large collaboration with Case, RL, Ginuwine, and Tyrese, "The Best Man I Can Be", this soundtrack doesn't disappoint. With appearances from Beyonce, Kenny Lattimore, Faith Evans, Allure, and the Lauryn Hill remixed version of Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low", this soundtrack is one of the rare ones that you can play all the way through and not skip a track.

Top 3 Songs 
"Maxwell- As My Girl"
"Case, RL, Ginuwine, and Tyrese- The Best Man I Can Be"
"Eric Benet- Poetry Girl"

*Waiting To Exhale (1995)

-One of the greatest selling soundtracks in history can be attributed to the hardwork and talent of Babyface and the vocal power of Whitney Houston. In all honesty, this could possibly be Babyface's greatest work, as he manages to write songs tailor made for women going through heartbreak. Though the film isn't one I watch, the music is undeniable, whether Babyface is giving Brandy a bouncy number to talk her youthful heartbreak "Sittin Up In My Room", giving Toni Braxton a chance to melodically soothe on "Let It Flow", or writing a legendary breakdown ballad for Mary J. Blige on "Not Gon Cry", this soundtrack doesn't miss one bit on any track. It's a certain classic and one that showcases nothing but amazing women in music.

Top 3 Songs 
"Brandy- Sittin Up In My Room"
"Mary J. Blige- Not Gon Cry"
"Toni Braxton- Let It Flow"

*Panther (1995)

-Though this movie doesn't really get much credit or love, this was really a solid listen throughout. With very minimal hip hop involved in this, this was a true R&B soundtrack that featured huge names like Bobby Brown, Aaron Hall, Tony! Toni! Tone!, and more. With a revolutionary mindset in every song, the music carried a strong message along with the very dope rhythms in the music. One of the surprising songs comes from a young Usher and Monica with "Let's Straighten It Out" and both these talented youths vocally carry it perfectly. Knowing the legacy they've had since this time, it's pretty cool hearing them back then together.

Top 3 Songs 
"Usher and Monica- Let's Straighten It Out"
"Bobby Brown- Slick Partner"
"Joe- Express Yourself"

*How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)

-Though this was NOT a movie that I enjoyed personally, the soundtrack was undeniably dope. There was some great music here, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis handling the production and creation of it. Aside from the poorly executed "Mastablasta 98" with Stevie Wonder and Wyclef (just no), this had some really solid tracks. It had a nice hip hop blend on certain tracks, featuring Big Pun on one specific track as well. My favorite songs come from Maxi Priest and KC-i & JoJo here, and each of those songs has its own flavor.

Top 3 Songs 
"KC-i & JoJo- Never Say Never Again"
"Mary J. Blige- Beautiful"
"Maxi Priest- The Art of Seduction" 

*Mo' Money (1992)

-Anytime you can get Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on production during the New Jack Swing era, you're bound to have a winner. Add in New Edition and their members along with the Bomb Squad on production here and there, and you really can't lose. The tracklist is a bit long, at 24 tracks, but with Mint Condition, Sounds Of Blackness, and Color Me Badd on here as well, it has some of the more popular 90s R&B (and gospel in the case of Sounds of Blackness) here.

Top 3 Songs 
"Ralph Tresvant- Money Can't Buy You Love"
"Johnny Gill- Let's Just Run Away"
"Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Bell Biv Devoe and Ralph Tresvant- The Best Things In Life Are Free"

*Girl 6 (1996)

-A number of previously released tracks from Prince and a few unheard tracks can't be deserving of a soundtrack spot, right? WRONG (say it like Charlie Murphy). This is still a refreshing listen, as a lot of Prince's songs never seem to get old ever. This is more of an example of that, from his all time classic "Erotic City", all the way down to the "Girl 6" title track, which was really the only official new song here.

Top 3 Songs 
"Prince- Erotic City"
"Prince and The New Power Generation- Girl 6"
"Prince- Adore"

*Jungle Fever (1991)

-Stevie Wonder is one of the all time greats in music. He was in his prime during the 70s and 80s, but he would kick off the 90s with a daring release to back the Spike Lee directed film Jungle Fever. Based around a tough interracial relationship, Stevie composes songs tailor made for the film scenes and the breakdown of the love. It stands as one of my favorite projects that Stevie released in his career and could honestly be the best soundtrack to any Spike Lee movie.

Top 3 Songs
"Stevie Wonder- These Three Words"
"Stevie Wonder- Queen In The Black"
"Stevie Wonder- Gotta Have You"

*The Five Heartbeats (1991)

-One of my all time favorite movies, this film had a throwback style soundtrack, but the music still felt fresh. With music from The Dells (the group that the movie was based on), After 7, and the legendary Patti Labelle, this was a different style of soundtrack than some of the others, but it was a flawless listen.

Top 3 Songs
"After 7- Nights Like This"
"Billy Valentine and The Dells- A Heart Is A House For Love"
"Bird And The Midnight Falcons- Baby Stop Running Around"

*Soul Food (1997)

-The film is one of the best black family movies, and through all the ups and downs in the film, the music provided a nice background for every important scene and moment. In addition that complementing the film itself, the music is impeccable. My favorite song is from the combination of Milestone (which put KC-I & JoJo and After 7 together basically) with their Babyface crafted "I Care about You", but Dru Hill came with a classic in "We're Not Making Love No More" and Boyz II Men delivered one of the most heartfelt songs dedicated to mothers all around the world with "A Song For Mama". All in all, this would rank in my top 5-7 for soundtracks period.

Top 3 Songs 
"Milestone- I Care About You"
"Dru Hill- We're Not Making Love No More"
"Boyz II Men- A Song For Mama"

*New Jack City (1991)

-When we think of New Jack Swing, how could we forget the impact that the film had on the whole feel. From the fade haircut to the style to the sound, the New Jack Swing era was full of some of the most fun in music ever. This soundtrack features some of the top artists from the New Jack Swing Era, like Keith Sweat, Guy, Troop, Levert, Christopher Williams, and Johnny Gill.

Top 3 Songs 
"Christopher Williams- I'm Dreamin"
"Johnny Gill- I'm Still Waiting"
"Color Me Badd- I Wanna Sex You Up"

*Hav Plenty (1998)

-With a solid blend of R&B, Neo-Soul, and a small hint of hip hop, this slept on (and oddly enough poorly acted) film spawned a very solid soundtrack with features and appearances from Faith Evans, AZ Yet, Kelly Price, Jon B, Babyface, Erykah Badu, Chico Debarge, and a verse from Jay-Z. While there are some clunkers here, overall it is a very dope listen.

Top 3 Songs 
"Babyface and Des'ree- Fire"
"Erykah Badu- Ye Yo"
"Chico Debarge- Any Other Night" 

*The Bodyguard (1992)

-Okay, so I'm not a big fan of the movie like that either, but I'd be lying if I said the soundtrack wasn't a monster. Whitney Houston, who played a singer and star in the film, handles the work for the soundtrack and in turn, it is the best selling soundtrack in the history of music at 45 million copies worldwide. Every song Whitney laid her vocals on seemed to be a classic and just worked, including her most infamous song, "I Will Always Love You". Though I prefer some soundtracks over this one, this is  certainly the greatest of all the soundtracks.

Top 3 Songs 
"Whitney Houston- I Will Always Love You"
"Whitney Houston- Run To You"
"Whitney Houston- I'm Every Woman"

*Love Jones (1997)

-Although Boomerang is my favorite soundtrack ever, this one isn't too far behind it. Honestly, if there was a movie and soundtrack that both embodied the late 90s Neo-Soul vibe, this was the one. From the smoother version of one of Maxwell's top singles to Lauryn Hill singing her soul out, this soundtrack was everything the 90s films embodied: love, soul, and black culture.

Top 3 Songs 
"Maxwell- Sumthin' Sumthin': Mellosmoothe (Cut)
"Dionne Farris- Hopeless"
"Lauryn Hill- The Sweetest Thing"

There are a few soundtracks you might want to see here that aren't. Set It Off and The Wood had too much hip hop to be considered, and the same could be said for a number of the other black film soundtracks that walked the line between genres. Regardless, these soundtracks were not only vital to music, but to our culture.



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