On this day back in 1994, the now cult classic basketball movie 'Above the Rim' was released. The movie starred hip-hop superstar Tupac Shakur as the local drug lord/goon named Birdie. 'Above the Rim' was a basketball movie, but Tupac’s character, Birdie pretty much stole the show. He showed that he was conniving, ruthless and willing to do anything to win, including having someone killed in broad daylight. He could be nice and warm one minute and willing to kill the next. It almost felt as if Tupac wasn’t acting, but really playing a version of himself.
Duane Martin (who was really an NBA player) was casted as Kyle Lee Watson, a super talented but self-centered, hot-tempered high school baller who falls under Birdie’s influence. Leon played Tommy Shepherd, a troubled local basketball legend with a few dark secrets, who returns to the neighborhood to bury his mother. The movie also featured Marlon Wayans as Bugaloo, Bernie Macas Flip and a young Wood Harris as Birdie’s right hand man, Motow— though we’re not sure his name was ever said in the movie.
'Above the Rim' is a coming of age story about making smart choices and learning how to own up to past mistakes.
A case can be made that this is one of the best urban soundtracks of the ’90s. While this movie was set in NYC, the soundtrack was very West Coast heavy, since it was produced by Suge Knight and Death Row Records. It boasted multiple songs from Tha Dogg Pound and (then known as) Snoop Doggy Dogg, a chart topping single from Warren G and Nate Dogg ('Regulate'), and a classic R&B/hip-hop pairing between SWV and the Wu-Tang Clan. It also featured female rapper Rage, and her debut single 'Afro Puffs'. The standout of the soundtrack was Tupac’s street anthem, 'Pain'. However, due to time constraints, the record label only included the banger along as a bonus song on the cassette release of the soundtrack, and not the CD release. Even today, the Tupac track is still one of the harder songs to find online.
The 'Above The Rim' soundtrack changed the rap game forever
The soundtrack proved a gangsta rap label (Death Row Records) could do R&B, the soundtrack introduced the world to Warren G and Nate Dogg, officially ushering in "The G-Funk Era", the soundtrack was a subliminal warning shot in the East-West rap rivalry, the soundtrack fueled rumors of Death Row East, the soundtrack established The Lady of Rage as the hardest female rapper since MC Lyte and the soundtrack includes the last track produced by Stretch featuring 2Pac.