Normally, upon seeing the “words music inspired by…” you would be correct in setting down your Ipod and deactivating your Spotify. And hell I wouldn’t blame you, those few words are normally the pre-cursor to all kinds of awfulness. Film soundtracks are often mind blowing, music inspired by films are very often terrible, as goes Lester Bang’s first law of motion picture soundtracks (or so it should). However, Rubble Kings is the exception to the rule.
Rubble Kings the album is inspired by the documentary of the same name, which traces gang culture and its influence upon the roots of hip hop in 1970s New York and is in itself a worthwhile watch. Thanks to an exceptional cast: Little Shalimar, Bun B, Killer Mike, Run the Jewels and Tunde Adebimpe (of TV on the Radio fame) Rubble Kings does what a good music inspired by album should, it both compliments the film and stands as a great listen by itself.
Shalimar’s mostly instrumental tracks are the hidden gems of the album, sounding like a clash between music from an old 70s cop show and a James Brown backing band. There is a real sense of funk and even, whisper it, psychedelia running through them. They are both unexpected and a joy to induge in.
Elesewhere on the album Run the Jewels bring their usual witty machine gun fire flows which go further towards highlighting that they are the most vital hip hop group in the world at this moment, perhaps of any group since Public Enemy. Killer Mike provides a stand out turn alongside Bun B, a pairing which really should have any hip hop head excited. It should also come as no surprise to anyone who has heard his recent albums that Ghostface Killah’s verse on the track Same Damn Thing sounds typically thrilling and dangerous and supports the argument that his flow is truly up there with the best of all time.
As the album closes the focus shifts towards the gentrification of the Bronx and the changing nature of New York in the 1980s and 1990s with perhaps two of the funkiest tracks on the whole damn album in Shalimar’s The Piano District and Adebimpe’s closing track Phoenix. Both are again great listens that contain a maligned sense of beauty for the New York of the 1970s and for what grew out of the Rubble.
Rubble Kings is an intelligent hip hop album which is further added to by doses of Shalimar’s instrumental funk. Proving that even when an album is inspired by it can still sound inspirational.