DEAD PRESIDENTS- Hughes Brothers (Allen and Albert), released in October 1995.

(discuss the film in terms of music)

Music felt like another character in the film.  It was never background noise.  The music was just as powerful as the other voices in the film.  Hughes Brothers were influenced by music of the past. (Issac Hayes, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, etc)


There were two soundtracks.

First was released in September of 1995.

  1. “If You Want Me To Stay”, by Sly & The Family Stone
  2. “Walk On By”, by Isaac Hayes
  3. “The Payback”, by James Brown
  4. “I’ll Be Around”, by The Spinners
  5. “Never Never Gonna Give You Up”, by Barry White
  6. “I Miss You”, by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  7. “Get Up & Get Down”, by The Dramatics
  8. “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go”, by Curtis Mayfield
  9. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, by Aretha Franklin
  10. “Where Is The Love”, by Jesse & Trina
  11. “Tired Of Being Alone”, by Al Green
  12. “Love Train” by The O’Jays
  13. “The Look Of Love”, by Isaac Hayes
  14. “Dead Presidents Theme” by Danny Elfman

Second was released in April of 1996.

  1. “I Got the Feelin'”, by James Brown
  2. Keep on Pushin'”, by the Impressions
  3. “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, by the Undisputed Truth
  4. “Right on for the Darkness”, by Curtis Mayfield
  5. “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”, by the Temptations
  6. “Cowboys to Girls”, by the Intruders
  7. “Never Gonna Give You Up, by Jerry Butler
  8. “I Was Made to Love Her, by Stevie Wonder
  9. “(Man Oh Man) I Want to Go Back”, by the Impressions
  10. “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby”, by Sam & Dave
  11. “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue”, by Curtis Mayfield
  12. “Ain’t That a Groove”, by James Brown

Not only were the Hughes Brothers influenced by music of the past, they were also influenced by contemporary music.  Influenced by the narratives of their generation…the hip hop generation.  I’d like to point to Nas’s ILLMATIC record.


Third single from Nas’ debut album ILLMATIC, released in April 1994 on Columbia Records.  Recording for the album took place during 1992 and 1993.

The lyrics talk about money to burn, and dead presidents.  It represents the ghetto, depicting the bleak realities, but also hopeful at the same time.  Video not only shows the conditions in the urban community, but also has a photo of a black soldier on top of the television.  Probably a Vietnam reference.  Different texts/narratives are communicating with one another….and this video/song might have influenced the film.


Illmatic contains discerning treatment of its subject matter: gang rivalries, desolation, and the ravages of urban poverty.[14][15] Nas, who was twenty years old when the album was released, realistically depicts the darker side of urbanity, creating highly detailed first-person narratives that deconstruct the troubling lives of inner city teenagers. The symptoms of urban poverty are also addressed throughout the album, as well as nostalgic views of his environment’s history, while the album’s general lyrical theme alternates from moments of pain and pleasure to frustration and braggadocio.[16] These narratives originate from Nas’s own experiences in his hometown of Queensbridge, as the lyrics allude to the housing projects located in the Long Island City-section of Queens, New York.[17] Critic Sam Chennault wrote, “Nas captures post-crack N.Y.C. in all its ruinous glory … [r]ealizing that drugs were both empowering and destructive, his lyrics alternately embrace and reject the idea of ghetto glamour”.[15]

An columnist described Nas as a “genius introvert who rose out of the rubble of Reaganomics to bless the mic with a forward brand of introspective, redemptive street poetry”.[17] The columnist also wrote “[his] narration glorifies the emergent poetic self as the embodiment of an elevated creative state that is potentially attainable by most any ghetto child … [His] narrative voice swerves between personas that are cynical and optimistic, naïve and world-weary, enraged and serene, globally conscious and provincial … a most worthy candidate to craft a palatable and subversive message for the rotten apple‘s disenfranchised youth. He was young and observant enough to isolate and analyze the positively formative moments of a project childhood while unflinchingly documenting the tragedies”.[17] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post described Nas’s performance on the album as “balancing limitations and possibilities, distinguishing hurdles and springboards, and acknowledging his own growth from roughneck adolescent to a maturing adult who can respect and criticize the culture of violence that surrounds him. More importantly, he recognizes the older, deeper culture of familial community that is poverty and racism’s first casualty”.[18]


First single released on Jay’s debut album REASONABLE DOUBT in June 1996.  Part one is not on the album, but the part two is – same beat and chorus, just different lyrics.  He takes a vocal sample from Nas’ THE WORLD IS YOURS.  So not only is Jay influenced by Nas’ song in the same manner that I believe the Hughes Brothers might have been, but he is also making direct reference to the actual Hughes Brothers film Dead Presidents.

All of these works are collaborative works.  The different texts are speaking to and informing one another. Example of how culture recycles itself.  An example how culture evolves.  References from the past get appropriated, and show up in the present in ways that are more reflective of the issues and concerns of the day.  With Jay and with hip hop, there are always political references, but you see how the culture in placing emphasis on the attainment of money/lavish lifestyle.  The music allows you to see how the culture is morphing and “evolving.”


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