7 classic soundtracks from 90s cinema

From “Damn girl, I didn’t know Nike made dresses” to “Bye Felicia,” black films from the 1990s still have a big influence in today’s pop culture.

  /  04.24.2019

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

— by James Sanders

When it comes to iconic 90s films, all one has to do is pay attention to people in a conversation who remember their classic moments or scenes. A reference is always manifested and somehow, it always works.

From “Damn girl, I didn’t know Nike made dresses” to “Bye Felicia,” black films from that era still have a big influence in today’s pop culture. The soundtracks, though, add to the memory of how it felt when you heard Mary J. Blige singing “Not Gon’ Cry” and watching Angela Bassett sell off her husband’s belongings, all for $1. Or listening to SWV’s “Anything,” and thinking of basketball and 2Pac in Above the Rim. The soundtracks added to the brilliance of the era and the fun of the music. Here are seven of our favorites:

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

“Girlfriend, here’s to peace of mind and all the happiness your heart and hand can hold cause Lord knows you deserve it.” – Waiting to Exhale

Haters will say that Waiting to Exhale is about bashing men. A closer look will show that the film is a celebration of friendships and focuses on women looking for true love. The soundtrack is a smoothie of rhythm and blues with a mixture of some of the biggest names in music. What’s most brilliant about this female-driven project is the fact that it was written and produced by Kenny “Babyface” Edmunds. The soundtrack sold over 11 million copies.

Big Songs:

“Not Gon’ Cry” – Mary J. Blige

“Sittin Up In My Room” – Brandy

“Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” – Whitney Houston

Above the Rim (1994)

“You my man and the whole 9, but you look like a 14-karat Urkel.” – Above the Rim

Above the Rim is a good old-fashioned hood story with excellent acting and a well-done soundtrack. This music project, released in 1994 to coincide with the film, is a part of hip hop history because it was executive produced by Suge Knight and Dr. Dre. It was also an official Death Row Records release. Much to the critical success it garnered, this soundtrack became important because it was the first mainstream soundtrack where rap was king.

Big Songs:

“Anything (Remix)” — SWV and Method Man

“Loyal to the Game” – 2Pac

“Regulate” – Warren G and Nate Dogg

“Afro Puffs” – Lady of Rage featuring Snoop Dogg

Set It Off (1996)

“The only way we gonna see cash is if we take a bank.” – Set It Off

This film could be part of any curriculum for a modern feminist class. The Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah-fueled film also starred Kimberly Elise and Vivica A. Fox. The premise — girl power — is as prevalent in the soundtrack as it is in the film. Brandy’s remix of “I Wanna Be Down” featured one of the best femcees of the time: Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, and MC Lyte. Whenever the song is performed live today, it’s still a showstopper.

Big Songs:

“I Wanna Be Down (Remix)” – Brandy with MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah

“Missing You” – Brandy, Gladys Knight, Tamia, Chaka Khan

“Don’t Let Go (Love)” – En Vogue

New Jack City (1991)

“Sit yo’ five dollar ass down before I make change.” – New Jack City

A movie about drugs. Novel idea – right? New Jack City had every element of the drug game. Literally each of the Biggie’s 10 crack commandments are in this film. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is just as provocative, inclusive of every urban sound in 11 tracks from the 1991 production. Launching a sound itself, the obvious standout is Teddy Riley’s Guy in the song of the same name (“New Jack City”), but the film had some amazing offerings from other artists, as well.

Big Songs:

“New Jack City” – Guy

“I Wanna Sex You Up” – Color Me Bad

“I’m Dreaming” – Christopher Williams

“In the Dust” – 2 Live Crew

Boomerang (1992)

“I’m sick and tired of men using love as if it’s some disease you just catch. Love should have brought your ass home last night.” – Boomerang

With BET rebooting the film as a series more than 20 years later with new characters spun off the original cast, Boomerang‘s cultural impact is poignant in the vein of “The Cosby Show.” Like Cosby, Boomerang showed educated black professionals at the height of their careers in realistic and attainable ways. The film starred Eddie Murphy and featured countless artists. The soundtrack, which eventually went triple platinum, launched the career of Toni Braxton with the stellar hit “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” a song originally written and intended for Anita Baker.

Big Songs:

“Love Shoulda Brought You Home” – Toni Braxton

“End of the Road” – Boys II Men

“7 Day Weekend” – Grace Jones

The Best Man (1999)

“You know what your problem is? You don’t live enough for today. For once just live in the moment.” – The Best Man

The messiest on the list for sure — a film about a black writer who slept with his best friend’s girlfriend and put it in his book, all of which comes out during the wedding weekend of that same best friend and girlfriend. That black writer is the best man. With a who’s who of most of the important black talent from the era, The Best Man stars, Nia Long, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, and Morris Chestnut. The soundtrack was just as entertaining.

Big Songs:

“Turn Your Lights Down” – Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley

“All is Said and Done” – Beyonce and Marc Nelson

“The Best Man I Can Be” – Ginuwine, R.L., Case, Tyrese

Love Jones (1997)

“One truism in life, my friend … when that jones come down, it be a mothaf**ka” – Love Jones

Cheers to the film that made everyone want to go to a café where sexy poetry was performed amidst a small band in the background. That’s what Love Jones did. It was a fun, sensual film with the realistic complications that young black couples experience from time to time. The soundtrack was unique because it included some of the spoken word from the film as audio tracks. With a mix of soft vibe-y music, the music helped usher in Neo-Soul before the genre got its legs.

Big Songs:

“The Sweetest Thing” — Refugee Camp All-Stars featuring Lauryn Hill

“Sumthin’ Sumthin: Mellosmoothe (Cut)” — Maxwell

“Hopeless” — Dionne Farris

What 1990s movies soundtracks do you love? Let us know!

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