The Friday Soundtrack Turns 20. Here’s Why It’s Still Influential Two Decades Later (Food For Thought)
Released twenty years ago today (April 11, 1995), the soundtrack to Friday is exemplary of the musical consciousness emanating from many inner cities in America at the time. Equal parts R&B, funk, and Hip-Hop, the soundtrack went double-platinum, besting soundtracks to other popular films featuring Black lead actors, like Bad Boys and Dead Presidents. As a film, Friday served as a comedic antidote to sobering movies like 1991’s Boyz N the Hood and 1993’s Menace II Society, but similar to those soundtracks, Friday’s painted an all-inclusive picture of life in the hood, addressing the good and the bad.
The film’s opening track serves as a thematic signpost, suggesting that despite the film’s levity and comedic subject matter, life in the hood still comes with its very real set of dangers. The Isley Brothers’ “Trying To See Another Day” provides the sonic backdrop for the film’s first sequences, which include a robbery, police sirens, weed smoking, and plenty of 40 ounces – things symbolic of many days in South Central Los Angeles. Tracks like “Mary Jane” by Rick James and “Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up” by Cypress Hill contribute to the film’s legacy as a stoner classic. The lyrics to both present cannabis as a mood elevator and form of escape from the stressful surroundings of the film’s characters (“and when I’m feeling low, she comes as no surprise”/ “Gimme that fat bag of weed and the brew so I can get faded, elevated”).
“You Got Me Wide Open” by Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell and Rose Royce’s “I Wanna Get Next To You” are emblematic of the film’s love story between Ice Cube and Nia Long, whereas 2 Live Crew’s “Hoochie Mama” and Funkdoobiest’s “Superhoes” signify the negative feelings towards characters like Joi and Rita. This combination of songs helps to delineate between two female archetypes – the ones who are desired but hard to get and the ones who aren’t, stereotypes described in lyrics like “Girl my, my money is low and I know that I can’t take you to the fancy places you might wanna go” and “sex is what I need you for, I got a good girl but I need a whore.”
The soundtrack’s self-titled opening cut, in addition to being one of Ice Cube’s biggest hits, was the source of tension between him and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The inclusion of the lyric “throw ya neighborhood in the air” in the song’s chorus became a point of contention, due to its sounding very similar to Cypress Hill’s “Throw Your Set,” a track unreleased at the time of the soundtrack’s recording. According to B-Real, Cube had heard the song while working with Cypress Hill on “Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up,” and following the soundtrack’s release, beef ensued. Since squashed, the ensuing drama became very public, contributing not only to the success of diss tracks like Cypress Hill’s 1995 track “No Rest for the Wicked” and Westside Connection’s 1996 response,“King of the Hill,” but also to the popularity of the soundtrack, which was the only place fans could hear “Friday,” the song that started it all.
Similarly, the soundtrack was the only place fans could listen to Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” (until a year later when it was included on the Death Row Greatest Hits compilation album). The single went gold and reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, scoring another hit for Death Row Records, the clear-cut king of Los Angeles Rap music at the time. Featuring singer Nanci Fletcher, the song was accompanied by a music video starring some of the film’s cast. At the end of the song, Dre name-checks his label, shouting out “Death Row, let me know you in the house.” Ironically, they would be the last words he uttered on a record as a Death Row solo artist. Though he would go on to record a guest verse on Tupac’s “California Love,” released later in the year, Dre was about to embark on a bitter and high profile feud with co-owner Suge Knight–a split that continues to yield toxicity to this day.
April 26 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the film’s 1995 release, and in celebration, the film will be screened in theaters nationwide on, fittingly, 4/20. The soundtrack is also being honored, most significantly by Respect the Classics, the highly respected music outlet best known for reissuing classics on cassette and vinyl. Friday will receive their signature treatment, pressed on vinyl and adorned with a special lenticular cover.
In some ways, the soundtrack lives on through the music of others, for its undeniably Los Angeles-influenced curation of tracks provided listening material for some of today’s biggest contemporary rap stars. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly (which was originally titled Tu Pimp a Caterpillar as an ode to Tupac) contains a handful of musical earmarks easily traced to elements of the Friday soundtrack. Raised in the South Central-neighboring streets of Compton, Lamar imbued his latest album with a mix of Hip-Hop, Soul, and Funk reminiscent of Friday’s formula, pointing to the timelessness of the music. Indeed, Lamar’s being signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label and the presence of Ron Isley (“How Much a Dollar Cost” and “i”) as well as the undeniable influence of George Clinton (a former bandmate of Bootsy Collins) on Butterfly link the two albums inextricably on the spectrum of Los Angeles’ long lineage of Hip-Hop music.
As the soundtrack transcended time barriers upon its release, with the inclusion of music from multiple eras, it continues to do so today. The themes covered on the album, along with the concept of friendship that anchors the film, preserve the legacy of both two decades later.
Amanda Mester is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter @CanEye_KickIt