Can you handle the Truth? That’s the decision protagonist DJ (played by Columbus Short) has to come to in the new motion picture “Stomp the Yard.” DJ is a troubled kid who leaves the violent streets of L.A. that killed his brother behind to move in with his extended family, eventually enrolling in the fictional Truth University, used as a stand-in for real institutions like Grambling and Xavier. You’ve no doubt surmised that “Truth” is a thinly veiled metaphor here, as DJ lives out the typical Hollywood “coming of age” tale searching for love and happiness while overcoming conflict and obstacles, which are presented in the form of step competitions which DJ excels at with natural charisma and ability.
What does this have to do with the soundtrack? Well whether or not the metaphors are so obvious that a man with no eyes could see through them and the concept itself is played out, one would expect a movie about a rough kid from the hood who changes his life through attending an HBCU and becoming a hotshot stepper to reflect it through a mixture of hot West coast and Dirty South hip-hop as well as some music you’d hear during step routines. As conceived though the “Stomp the Yard” sountrack may have more problems overcoming obstacles and achieving its goals than DJ does. The first is that all of the songs on this album are heavily edited, and there is no explicit version available. One might argue that was to be expected since the film itself has a PG-13 rating, then again without the violence against DJ’s brother in the film there wouldn’t be much of a film to speak of. It’s the same old double standard that’s been around for generations – you can watch sex and violence on TV or in the theatre but putting it on wax would “corrupt impressionable children.” Haven’t we as a society moved beyond such tired ideas by now?
This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that so many of the songs on “Stomp the Yard” are already available in explicit versions on the respective artists’ own albums. This is obvious straight from jump given the opening track is E-40 and The Federation’s “Go Hard or Go Home.” Since “My Ghetto Report Card” is one of 40-Water’s most popular albums to date, there’s a fair to decent chance hip-hop buyers picking up this soundtrack already have an uncensored version of this song physically or digitally. Do they even make edited versions of E-40 albums? Would any E-40 fan be stupid enough to buy one? What kind of herb would you be if you had to admit to your friends moms and pops made you buy it clean? Same problem with “Vans” by The Pack, which you can find explicit on “Skateboards to Scrapers” anywhere from Best Buy to iTunes. In fact putting aside explicitness for a minute, the majority of rap songs on “Stomp the Yard” were already released elsewhere. “The Champ” by Ghostface, “Walk it Out” by Unk, “Supermixx is Back” by Public Enemy, even “Storm” by Cut Chemist featuring Edan and Mr. Lif.
The most important question might be “What do any of these songs have to do with stepping?” While something like “In the Music” by The Roots might be great on a college radio hip-hop show, or Ne-Yo’s “Sign Me Up” might be a good song to throw on at a frat party so girls will dance, none of them embody stepping in any way shape or form. The only song on the whole soundtrack that I feel even comes close to that spirit is Robert Randolph & the Family Band’s “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That.” I realize a whole soundtrack of actual music fraternities would step to might not be that marketable, but how is an album full of censored tracks you can get unedited elsewhere? There are plenty of good songs here but the format is just dissapointing. My recommendation is if you’re going to spend $12.99 on something, you might as well get a ticket to the movie and a box of popcorn, because the “Stomp the Yard” soundtrack is not a good investment of your time or money unless you’re too lazy to make a much better unedited mixtape yourself.