Welcome to ISC HiFi. Explore new records daily from our growing collection of classics and rarities from around the world. Discover the stories behind the records. Experience the ISC listening space from home through our (( ROOM RECORDING )) audio player below.

“To hear more, say less.”

Our website uses cookies
Read our privacy policy.

I Agree

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: 10 Iconic Blaxsploitation Soundtracks

Written By: 
Tana Yonas
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

This cinematic movement centered around the black experience gave legends like Roy Ayers and Barry White their first shot at scoring films.

The American civil rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s led a mass migration of mostly white communities out of racially mixed cities, who abandoned them for the outer-ring suburbs where they could effectively segregate themselves. This “white flight” or “white exodus” suddenly changed the culture and economics of major cities like New York and Chicago, and dozens of smaller rust belt cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis. 

The move saw cities self-segregate to become home to Black and other POC populations, including new immigrants. Movie theaters that programmed for mostly white audiences found themselves with vacant showplaces, which left Hollywood wondering how they were going to sell tickets with their target market gone. At this point many black characters in mainstream cinema were embarrassing stereotypes. 

The eventual shift came from the underground, and the film that initiated the Blaxploitation was Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss. It had black characters who were heroes worth lusting after and the storylines reflected the happenings in the inner cities. Most surprisingly, the film was self-financed and was also co-produced, scored, edited by — and starred — Peebles. 

Image result for Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss

Black Panther chapters across the country promoted the film as required viewing. The theaters were packed again and the movie went on to gross over $15 million. It set the stage for the aesthetic that Blaxploitation was famous for. It also provided Hollywood the financial incentive to produce Shaft, which mainstreamed the genre and legitimized Blaxsploitation to a wary film industry.

Other than the incredible costuming and endlessly quotable one liners, like “Can you dig it?,”  the films had stellar soundtracks by the biggest names in soul and funk. Previous to Blaxploitation films, non-jazz Black music was rarely featured on Hollywood soundtracks. About 200 films were released from the official period of 1971-1976, and below is a list of ten essential soundtracks from the period. Some great albums didn’t make the cut, but you can explore a supplementary playlist below to get an even better taste of one of the most exciting moments in American music.


Melvin Van Peeples & Earth, Wind, and Fire – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) 

Melvin Van Peeples fits the archetype of a renaissance man, and empowered many black filmmakers to tell their own stories. It was the first popular film to incorporate black power ideology, and its profits set the roots of an entire Black cinematic movement. Van Peebles  brought on Earth, Wind & Fire to score the film with him before they found fame, and the soundtrack was full of the heavy bass riffs and wah-wah guitars that became an essential part of the canon. 

Disco Godfather, Rudy Ray Moore & Juice People Unlimited (1979) 

Rudy Ray Moore became famous after his first movie Dolomite was released 1975. Dolomite was known for his self-described “all girl army of kung fu killers.” It had a great soundtrack, but he outdid himself with Disco Godfather. His other soundtrack for his 1976 film The Human Tornado is another gem, and you can give that a listen via the playlist below.

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (1972)

One of the most iconic songs to come out of the 1970’s is “Pusherman” by Curtis Mayfield, though many don’t know this soulful track is from this revolution in cinema. The trope of the hyper masculine cocaine kingpin with a talent for seduction was one of the most popular storylines, but this was the first of many blaxploitation movies that included martial arts as a part of the storyline. Mayfield can be spotted performing in the movie, so when you do give this movie a watch make sure to be on the lookout for him.

James Brown – Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off (1973)

With a hyperviolence that inspired filmmakers like Quinten Tarintino, Slaughter fills every moment with dense, occasionally ridiculous melodrama, so if the dialog doesn’t have you in a fit of laughter, the delivery will. The hero of the film is military-trained and ruthless in his search to avenge the murder of his parents. James Brown offers his signature funkified mood, filled with a rebellious joy — even if it takes the edge off some of the action sequences. 

Johnny Pate – Bucktown (1975)

This is a straightforward action film about some good guys running the malevolent forces out of town. Johnny Pate resists the urge of over dramatising the emotional expression of the soundtrack, so it’s a perfect listen any day of the week.  Yes, the lascivious sound effects at the end of this track will get your attention, but it doesn’t take away from the ease of Pate’s  arrangement. 

Issac Hayes – Shaft (1971)

The blaxploitation franchise to rule them all, Shaft is also probably the most well-known character from this period. Shaft was the first mainstream film of the genre, and it was fully backed by the Hollywood machine. Isaac Hayes out did himself with tracks like “Bumpy’s Lament”,  that was later sampled on Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”, and the Shaft theme song puts an extra beat to every step for anyone within earshot of the signature beat.

Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man (1972)

Another visionary voice of his time, Marvin Gaye brought to life this career defining score. He didn’t deviate from his usual style for “Trouble Man”  and the title track became a popular staple for his shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The film itself is great. Sset in New York, it revolves  around the drama of street gambling.

Willie Hutch – The Mack (1973)

Any self respecting fan of the genre will say The Mack is an underrated classic. With Richard Pryor as a lead, the script juxtaposes the life of a ‘70s gangster and the Black nationalist ideology, which propels a deeper conversation about capitalism and race. Willie Hutch offers a beautiful theme song. Emotional and somber, the theme is followed by a high impact rhythm that is perfect for all of the ass-kicking in the film. 

Barry White & The Love Unlimited Orchestra  – Together Brothers (1974)

Though it may be incredibly obvious, Barry White produced what is perhaps the most sensually indulgent soundtrack on this list. Set to a pulsing rhythm that is carried throughout the soundtrack, most of the score is instrumental. So when White’s distinctive bass-baritone vocals arrive, it heats up the scenes.

Roy Ayers – Coffy (1973)

If you’re not familiar with many of these films, it could be a little overwhelming to find your favorite funk voices and composers at the helm of entire soundtracks, and this fortunate phenomenon did not exclude Roy Ayers. Coffy was by far the most virtuous of the heroes of the genre. Played by Pam Grier, the undisputed “Queen of Blaxploitation,” her character was on a relentless mission to eliminate the drug dealers in her community. Needless to say, she was very comfortable using her charm to lure men into violent comeuppance.

So many films with notable soundtracks aren’t covered here, so give this playlist below a listen to really immerse yourself in the funky zeitgeist of this movement.


Related Articles

Sort By
12th Isle
2020
33rpm
45rpm
4AD
5 Selects
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Ginsberg
Alan Greenberg
Alan Thicke
Albert Ayler
Alice Coltrane
Amazon Music
Ambient
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Analog
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
Animation
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Artform Radio
Arthur Russell
Article
Ash Ra Temple
Audiogon
Audiophile
avant
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Balearic
Bali
Ballad
Bargain Bin
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats in Space
Bebop
Belgium
Bennie Maupin
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Bhutan Stamps
Big Band
Bill Laswell
Black Ark Studios
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Bola Sete
Bollywood
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Bruton Music
Buddhism
Cabaret
Calypso
CAN
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Choral
City Pop
Classical
Classics
Coctueau Twins
Commercial
Community
Compass Point
Compilation
Condesa Electronics
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cornelius
Cosmic
Cosmic Disco
Cosmic Folk
Country
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark
Dark Entries
David Bowie
David Byrne
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Demo
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Diasporic Disco
Dick Verdult
Diggin in the Mags
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
DJ
Documentary
Don Buchla
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Doom Metal
Downtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dub
Dub Poetry
dublab
Dubwise
Durutti Column
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
EBM
ECM
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
Eric Dolphy
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listen
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Factory Records
Fela Kuti
Field recording
Films
Fingertracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Fourth World
France
Free Improvisation
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Gal Costa
Gamelan
Garage Rock
Garrard
Gems from the Dollar Bin
George Martin
Gilberto Gil
Gogo
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Grateful Dead
Group Sounds
Guide
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Harp
Harry Nilsson
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
Hiroshi Yoshimura
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
Iasos
IDM
Illustration
Improvisation
In Conversation
India
Indian
Indian Classical
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
Ingmar Bergman
instock
Instrumental
International
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Island Records
Isolation
Italo Disco
Italy
Jackie McLean
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japananese
Japanese
Jazz
jazz kissa
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
John Martyn
Jon Hassell
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Keith Jarrett
Kid-Friendly
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kompakt
Kosmiche
Kosmische
KPM
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Lagniappe Sessions
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Library Music
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovefingers
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Marantz
Marcel Duchamp
Marcos Valle
mbaqanga
McIntosh
Meditation
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Meredith Monk
Metal
Michael Franks
Mid-Century
Miles Davis
Milford Graves
Mills College
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
MTV
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Therapy
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
New Age
New Music
New Wave
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Non-Profit
Northern Soul
Now Sound
NTS
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
Numero Group
NYC
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Overtone Singing
Painting
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul Horn
Paul McCartney
Pauline Oliveros
PBS
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Phillip Glass
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Plinth
Political
Pop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Power Pop
Premiere
Prince
Private Press
Productions
Professor Longhair
Prog Rock
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Psyhedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
Quiet Storm
R&B
Radio
Raga
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Label
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reissue
Reissues
Releases
Remix
Rock
Rocksteady
Roland
Roland Kirk
Roller Skate
Room Recordings
Room Treatment
Roots Reggae
Rotary Mixers
Rough Trade
Rudy Van Gelder
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sacred
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Seefeel
Sensual
Shamisen
Shibuya-kei
Shoegaze
Singer-Songwriter
Sisters with Transistors
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Sonny Sharrock
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South Africa
South African
South America
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Steely Dan
Stereolab
Stereophile
Steven Halpern
Stevie Wonder
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Streaming
Street Soul
Studio One
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Susumu Yokota
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
SYNG
Synth
Synth Pop
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tape
Tapes
TD-160
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Loft
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Thorens
Tim Sweeney
Too Pure Records
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tuareg
Tube
Turntable
TV
UK
Underrated
Val Wilmer
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Vice
Video
Vince Guaraldi
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Virginia Astley
Visible Cloaks
Visual Art
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Website
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Yacht Rock
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither