A rap artist overseeing the soundtrack to a major motion picture film may be groundbreaking news in 2018, but 20 years before Kendrick Lamar and Future had their names attached to Black Panther and Superfly, Missy Elliott became one of the first artists within the hip-hop community to receive that honor with her work on the soundtrack to the 1998 film, Why Do Fools Fall in Love. Riding high off the release of her platinum 1997 debut album, Supa Dupa Fly—which included hits like "Sock It To Me" and the Grammy-nominated lead single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," and a growing list of songwriting credits A-listers like Aaliyah, Ginuwine, 702, and Jodeci—Missy Elliott was a hot commodity heading into the new year. In addition to penning hits for herself and others, the Virginia native was in the midst of building her Elektra Records imprint, The Goldmind, Inc., from the ground up, which she launched in 1997.
With the critical acclaim and commercial success Supa Dupa Fly, The Goldmind, Inc.'s first musical release, the pressure and expectations riding on Missy's forthcoming projects was evident, among them being the soundtrack to Why Do Fools Fall In Love, which Elliott was handpicked by Elektra chairman and CEO Sylvia Rhone to executive produce. Based on the life of singer Frankie Lymon, the lead singer of pioneering rock & roll group Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, and the aggressive legal battle involving his estate, Why Do Fools Fall In Love featured Hollywood heavy-hitters Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon and Larenz Tate in starring roles, making it one of the biggest films of the year within the urban community. Despite being a proven hit-maker with a stable of artists under her own tutelage, Elliott had a bit of apprehension about being able to live up to the task of putting the soundtrack for the film together.
"I went through a lot of hard times with that," Elliott told the New York Daily News working on the Why Do Fools Fall In Love soundtrack. "I went through depression at one point. You just go through times where things are not going right. When it's my album, it's cool, but when I have to go to the film and make sure the songs match the film and get the artists together, it just became stressful. But it's hot."
Missy Elliott would ultimately pull through in the clutch and rise to the occasion; however, conflict surrounding the creative direction of the Why Do Fools Fall in Love soundtrack reared its head when some critics began pointing to the contrast between Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' brand of doo-wop-inspired rock & roll and the contemporary R&B cuts that comprised the majority of its selections. With Warner releasing Why Do Falls Fall in Love: Original Versions from the Movie the same day as Why Do Fools Fall in Love: Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture, albeit on Rhino Records, whispers sparked of a lack of synergy between Warner Bros. Pictures and Elektra regarding the film and the soundtrack. Rhino Films head Stephen Nemeth would address this disconnect in an interview with the Los Angeles Times following the film's theatrical release, saying, "It's difficult to accommodate a lot of different agendas," Nemeth said. "But once movie and music companies see the value of working in tandem, they'll do a better job of coordinating. It's like planning a wedding—you really want everyone to get to the altar at the same time."
For her part, Missy would point to the realities of the marketplace for black music at the time as reasoning for going with a fresher sound on the soundtrack, as opposed to more vintage fare. She argued in Interview around the time of the film's release, "Frankie Lymon was hot in his day, but if you put that on the shelf right now, people wouldn't run out and say, 'I have to get the Frankie Lymon soundtrack.'" With Warner Bros. Pictures deciding to move Why Do Fools Fall in Love's theatrical release from a September date up to August 28, 1998, nearly a month ahead of both soundtracks, it was clear that everyone at the studio was not on board with the film being marketed with a soundtrack comprised of contemporary R&B and rap.
However, when both soundtracks were unleashed on September 8, 1998, such critiques were outweighed by the public's response to Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture, which outperformed Original Versions from the Movie, peaking at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as reaching the Top 15 of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. And with two decades since its release, time has proved to be on Missy, Timbaland and Elektra's side, as Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture has aged gracefully into one of the most criminally underrated soundtracks of the '90s.
With Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture being just the second project released on The Goldmind Inc. following Supa Dupa Fly, it was only right that the album was kicked off by the home-team, as eventual signee Gina Thompson and rapper Mocha teamed up on the introductory title track. Produced by Missy, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" puts a modern twist on Frankie Lymon's signature track and effectively sets the tone for the rest of the soundtrack. Missy is undoubtedly the straw that stirs the drink on the soundtrack, however, she would also rely on the main ingredient that propelled Supa Dupa Fly and albums like Aaliyah's One in a Million and Ginuwine's The Bachelor to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts: Timbaland's masterful production prowess.
Like Elliott, 1998 was especially busy for Timbaland, who manned the boards for the likes of Aaliyah ("Are You That Somebody"), JAY-Z ("Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)"), Total ("What About Us"), and remixes of tracks for Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men, and Xscape, in addition to recording his own debut album, Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment. While Missy did most of the heavy-lifting in terms of songwriting and producing on the Why Do Fools Fall In Love soundtrack, Timbaland would also contribute multiple tracks to the album, which has his sonic imprint on it throughout, most notably on "Get On The Bus," a bouncy song by Destiny's Child (written by Elliott and produced by Timbaland).
Releasing their self-titled debut album in February earlier that year, Destiny's Child had emerged as one of the most promising groups in R&B, but had yet to reach the peak of their popularity, making opportunities to appear on soundtracks to further get their name and music out to the masses invaluable to the Houston natives. "Get on the Bus" brought Beyonce, Kelly and company into Missy and Timbo's realm of quirky, bounce-centric ditties. A moderate hit internationally, "Get on the Bus" climbed all the way to the Top 20 on the Dutch and UK charts, as well as cracked the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart despite never being released as a single commercially; it would ultimately be added to the international edition of Destiny's Child's breakout sophomore album, The Writing's on the Wall, the following year. R&B divas En Vogue also provide an early highlight with "No Fool No More," the official lead single for the soundtrack and one of the group's last hits of the decade. In addition to En Vogue, Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture included appearances from other tenured R&B groups, including Mint Condition, who shine on "Love Is For Fools," a solemn selection that finds lead vocalist Stokley Williams wallowing in the ache that heartbreak can bring, atop production by Keri Lewis.
Music From and Inspired from the Motion Picture's highest highs come courtesy of its contributions from the soundtrack's R&B talent, but also includes an ample dose of hip-hop throughout, much of which Missy is responsible for. Whether calling in Busta Rhymes to trade bars on "Get Contact," which was originally intended to include a verse from Ma$e, or riding shotgun alongside Coko ("He Be Back"), Total ("What the Dealio"), and Spice Girl Melanie B ("I Want You Back"), Missy utilizes all three of her skills as a triple-threat to ensure a long player that is equal parts raw and refined. From helping introduce up-and-coming talent like R&B trio Next and singer Lil 'Mo—who makes her debut on the soundtrack single "5 Minutes"—to showcasing some of the most respected names in rap and R&B, Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture is a reflection of Missy Elliott's mastery and understanding of what it takes to craft a cohesive body of work that stands the test of time.
In the time that has passed since Music from and Inspired from the Motion Picture's release, a lot has changed. Many of the artists on the soundtrack are in the twilight of their careers, if they're still actively recording and performing at all, and soundtracks to popular films may be making a resurgence but are far from the events they were considered to be in decades prior. With that said, it remains a quality body of work and is a testament to Missy Elliott's excellence as a creative and curator, a reputation she continues to build upon 20 years later, a reminder that some things never change.
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