The latest Samuel L. Jackson vehicle to hit theatres, “Coach Carter” is parts “Lean on Me” and “Remember the Titans.” It’s a feel good film about how Jackson, as the tough-as-nails Coach Carter, refuses to let his students play basketball unless their academics are as good as their athletics. The parents whine and protest, saying sports is all their children have, to which (paraphrasing) Carter responds “Maybe that’s the problem!” Much drama ensues. And no, I haven’t even seen the film yet – I’ve gleaned all that from the commercials and the websites promoting the movie. Never let it be said Hollywood won’t take a good formula and repeatedly beat it to death. I’m sure the presence of Jackson does make it a watchable film (he’s still underrated no matter how many accolades he receives), but I’ll wait for it to come out on DVD.
The music industry is a lot like the film industry – if a formula works you keep beating it to death until it doesn’t work any more. The “Coach Carter” soundtrack is pretty much what you would expect from a film with a hip-hop score. You’ve got the hot up-and-coming rapper who charts with the lead single (Red Cafe’s “All Night Long”), some songs by established MC’s to entice you in (Twista’s “Hope,” Chingy’s “Professional”), a few grimy underground songs to keep the hardcore heads happy (The Game’s “Southside,” Mack 10’s “Balla”), some R&B crossover material (Ciara’s “Roll Wit You,” LeToya’s “What Love Can Do”) and a generic selection of MC’s and singers you never heard of trying to make a come up by being thrown in the mix (Ak’Sent, CzarNok and Trey Songz).
Your expectations for how fresh this soundtrack is should be a little more limited than your expectations on how much you’d enjoy the film. While you can feel bad for the no-name MC’s who get thrown on soundtracks like this and just as quickly disappear from the industry, that doesn’t make their generic ho-hum beats and rhymes any better. Although Twista’s “Hope” with Faith Evans is a decent song, it’s only a remake of the song that already appeared on “Kamikaze” with Cee-Lo, and personally I like the Cee-Lo version better. It’s largely left to Fabolous, The Game, and Kanye West to carry this album – and the latter’s all-star “Would You Like to Ride” with Malik Yusef, Common and JV certainly tries hard as hell to do it. To be honest though I’m starting to get a little tired of Kanye on the mic, and wish he’d focus more on mixing than rapping. “Coach Carter” is a lot like the students featured in the movie – a passing grade will get you by, but any of these guys making the draft and ending up in the big time is still a longshot. Actually The Game will probably end up being an all-star when his album drops, but this soundtrack won’t make one bit of difference on him getting there either way.