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SoundTRAX: "Menace II Society"

 The "Menace II Society" soundtrack features members of the cast in blue behind the film's title.
Jive Records
New Line Cinema

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

The groundbreaking film Menace II Society was released 30 years ago this month.

I think movie critic Owen Gleiberman described it perfectly:

"Menace II Society is bleak, brilliant, unsparing: a full-scale vision of the madness that is tearing up the Black inner city. If the movie is sometimes hard to watch, it is even harder to shake off."

This was the first film made by the then-21-year-old twins, Albert and Allen Hughes— The Hughes Brothers— and tells the unflinching tale of Caine Lawson and his friends in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

There is unapologetic violence nonchalantly doled out by unsympathetic characters, along with many heartbreaking examples of what social and economic realities are the impetus for it all.

A gritty film calls for an equally bold soundtrack and the one for Menace II Society fits the bill.

Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Brand Nubian, Boogie Down Productions, Spice 1, Da Lench Mob, and DJ Quik are just a few of the performers on board.

But here's the thing: very few songs are FCC-compliant and I've got to be able to play one on the radio!

So for today's SoundTRAX selection, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Menace II Society, it's the artist formerly known as Smooth —now dubbed Needa S.— with "You Been Played."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.