Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

This oral history of the Judgment Night soundtrack doubles as a history of rap-rock

Illustration for article titled This oral history of the Judgment Night soundtrack doubles as a history of rap-rock
Photo: Largo Entertainment

Stephen Hopkins’ Judgement Night is a decent enough action-noir, but more people remember the soundtrack than they actually do the movie itself, which was shuffled out of theaters quickly due to poor box office return and a well-publicized shooting that unfolded during a screening. A new oral history of the soundtrack over at Rolling Stone allows the artists themselves to reflect on what were, to them, some groundbreaking collaborations.


Teenage Fanclub, for example, were head over heels to team up with De La Soul (“We felt like we won the gold medal in terms of who they suggested we should work with,” says singer Raymond McGinley), while Faith No More and Ice-T can’t say enough about how inspired their sessions were with Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and Slayer, respectively. Ice-T says Slayer were his “idols,” calling them “the baddest motherfuckers at the time.” Sir Mix-A-Lot, meanwhile, recalls just how “intimidated” he was to work with Mudhoney.

Elsewhere, artists like House of Pain’s Everlast, Cypress Hill’s Muggs, and Run-DMC dissect the myriad intersections of rap and rock that led to the soundtrack, which, in many ways, served to crystallize the form after years of one-off collaborations.

As DMC puts it:

The white people and black people were separate. The punk and the classic rock and the metal were separate until Run-DMC was able to get “Rock Box” on MTV. Then we did a record called “King of Rock” [in 1985] about a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum that didn’t exist. [The] Rock and Roll Hall of Fame didn’t start ’til ’86. And then we did “Walk This Way.” People say, “Yo, when Steven Tyler took that mic stand and knocked down that wall that was separating y’all? Yo, that didn’t just happen in that video, that happened in the world.” And Judgment Night is one of the babies that came through after that wall was broken down.

What really resonates isn’t necessarily the fusion of the forms so much as the actual collaboration. If there’s a reason why rap-rock devolved into macho nonsense in the years following the soundtrack, it’s likely due to bands adopting the sound without pursuing fruitful collaborations outside of their comfort zones. In this oral history, we see just how impactful the merging of these different perspectives and production styles turned out to be.

Come for those revelations, but do stay for Everlast’s relentless bashing of the actual movie, which he plays a small role in. “The director hated me ’cause I would constantly say shit like, ‘Yeah, four guys are walking around Cabrini Green in Chicago acting like they run shit. This is realistic,’” he says. “If you watch Judgment Night, I shot a lot more than what I’m in that movie. … And I don’t care because it’s a piece of shit. The best thing about about that movie is the soundtrack. It’s the only good, redeeming thing. It’s probably the only thing that still makes them any bread is the fucking soundtrack. After a certain amount of time I just stayed high on that set so I wouldn’t flip out and wind up on the news and shit.” Well then.


Stream the soundtrack in all its weird-ass glory below.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.