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Editor’s note: The following article is an editorial, and the opinions expressed are those of the author. Read more opinions on the Grio.
It’s June in Black America, which means it’s also Black Music Month, or as it’s more contemporary called for purposes of federal celebration and proclamation, Afro Music Appreciation Month. -American. The Feds are still watching, stay fresh, y’all.
Last week, we broke down which was best (or most iconic): love jones or the soundtrack, Love Jones: Music. The movie won (for me…and you, your mom and your cousin too.) This week we have a new one: Food for the soul.
Here’s a quick refresher and breakdown as to how we’re going to come to our final, biblically sound, scientific conclusion. We will use five different scientifically subjective and anecdotal categories; five because we need a potential tiebreaker:
When you think of INSERT NAME HERE, do you think of the movie or the soundtrack first?“Although this whole exercise could probably start and end here, why would we do such a thing?” Also, people are sometimes wrong. Not me, however. You all.
What had the most impact?—While sales should never be the primary determinant of iconic status, a soundtrack can’t be iconic if no one actually bought the thing. Or spent time talking about it or there were no videos etc. A movie can become a cult classic, a soundtrack pretty much needs to come out. Likewise, if a movie drops in the forest and no one sees it, well, who the hell left the door open? It makes more sense in my head.
How many iconic stars are there?—Is the movie full of stars (or future stars) and does the soundtrack have a plethora of big names and features? Iconic things include iconic people. I’m sure there are exceptions to this, hopefully I’ll never be stuck with one.
What is the greatest moment?—For something to be iconic, there has to be something that everyone can immediately remember. For a movie, there has to be some sort of scene (or scenes) that people look like “YASSSSSSS!” into a sort of Beyoncé-dropped album. For a soundtrack to be iconic, it must have a song that got people talking.
What remained most culturally relevant?“It’s true that it’s completely subjective, but I also objectively have the impression that it will not be so difficult to determine. Some 90s soundtracks really killed the game (eg. The show soundtrack; I haven’t even had to watch the documentary since probably 1999, when I still aim to party.)
Alright, are you ready? In the parlance of some Down South Georgia Boys, “We are ready”.
soul food, the 1997 film written and directed by George Tillman Jr., I think we can all agree that the film and the soundtrack are iconic. But which one is After iconic? Fight.
When you think of soul fooddo you think first of the film or of the soundtrack?
It’s an interesting question. When I think of soul food, I usually think of chicken. It’s a joke. I never thought of it before but to name your movie soul food, man, it sucks. It is one of the most recognizable terms in black America. I’m not even sure the movie lives up to its name, and it’s a realization that I literally have right now in 2022. That being said, I tend to think of the movie first, but mostly because of a lesson he taught me that I will never forget. I don’t know if other people feel the same way, but I’ll speak for The Blacks and take that weight and say people think of the movie before the soundtrack.
Which had the most impact?
This one feels harsh but probably isn’t. I think people only watched the soundtrack because of the movie. Why am I saying this? Well, according to Box Office Mojo, the budget for soul food was $7.5 million, but it made around $44 million at the box office, which is a clear and runaway hit for a movie. I don’t even remember it being that big, but I do know I went to see it at a movie theater (probably Magic Johnson’s Theater at the Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta, RIP) and I remember it was full to crack. I also remember finally cutting the soundtrack because of the Outkast song “In Due Time” and the amazing video. But wait; turns out the soundtrack ended up being a monster; four songs ranked in the top 25 of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Charts! It’s something iconic right there. These four songs: “What About Us” by Total, “We’re Not Making Love No More” by Dru Hill, “I Care About You” by Milestone (more on this band) and “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men. – all ranked in the top 10 of the R&B charts. The soul food the soundtrack went multi-platinum. So it’s a bit of a tossup, but… maybe this soundtrack hits harder than the movie.
How many iconic stars are there?
This is where it gets so interesting. Here are the stars – in 1997 – of the film: Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer, Vanessa Williams and Vivica A. Fox. I think at that time the only person who was like A-list status was Vanessa Williams. Vivica was right about that after being Will Smith’s boo-thang in independence day and in one of the best films ever made, Disable it. Nia Long was coming off a series of Friday and love jonesthe latter which dropped earlier in 1997. By the time soul food fate, Mekhi’s biggest movie was the Spike Lee movie Watchmakersbut it was probably more of a cult classic than a great movie.
Meanwhile, this soundtrack features Boyz II Men (I mean, come on), Dru Hill, Outkast, K-Ci and JoJo Hailey (as part of the invented band Milestone that had real chart success), Total , Puffy, Lil Kim, Earth, Wind & Fire (although an old song), Xscape, Usher, Monica, etc. This soundtrack was actually a bit of a monster when I think about it. We could turn a corner here.
What is the greatest moment?
The soundtrack’s biggest moment is the Boyz II Men song, “A Song for Mama,” the Babyface-penned jam that set the tone for the film. And he atomic bombed. It was everywhere for a while. But it was also the case of “We don’t make love anymore” by Dru Hill. Rap City kept Outkast’s “In Due Time” in constant rotation. There were some really big moments on this soundtrack, but Boyz II Men kicked in the door, waving the four-four.
There were a few pivotal moments in the film. The infamous fire scene that ended up making them millionaires, but made some things right. The famous scene of Teri’s (Vanessa Williams) husband Miles (Michael Beach) cheating on her with his cousin Faith (Gina Ravera). In fact, the fact that since 1997 cousins named Faith have not been allowed to spend the night in people’s homes could make this a pantheon-level moment of film noir. So I think the movie should win here; I’m not even sure the Boyz II Men song is the first song people would mention from this soundtrack. Meanwhile, Cousin Faith.
What remained most culturally relevant?
Please see above re: Cousin Faith. I think her and this case are the most lasting legacies of the film. The soundtrack was obviously a winner, but man, again, if you say Cousin Faith in a room full of black people old enough to have seen that movie, you get some very dirty looks.
Well, thanks to a cheating cousin, the movie edged out the soundtrack 3-2. I actually thought the soundtrack might release it this time, but no luck.
Kudos to Soul Food Sundays which are like Big Mama’s, mayne.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at the Grio. He writes very dark things and drinks very dark liquors, and is rather classy for a lightweight guy. His greatest accomplishment to date coincides with his darkest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after reading one of her articles (the most important), but he didn’t. Didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Be sure to check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on Grio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll host some of the most black conversations known to mankind. You might not leave the conversation with an Afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio app; Download here.