Melvin Van Peebles – 1971 – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

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Breathtakingly unique, just like the movie, and undeniably fascinating. Although Earth, Wind, & Fire went on to have a long and fruitful career full of hits, their music never again sounded as unusual as it did here, which is kind of a shame, because this album has aged like fine wine. Like the film it’s based on, it’s didactic, sometimes bizarre, and very energetic. Melvin Van Peebles’ vocals and spoken word style perfectly synchronize with the rhythms and tones as well.

This album also sounded way ahead of its time, with audio clip samples scattered all over the place immersing you that much further into the music and taking you back to that time period’s harsh reality. Future hip-hop artists such as MF Doom would also go on to mix together several different audio clips to achieve their vision, and coincidentally, MF Doom sampled “Watermelon Man” on “Mm.. Food”. Oh, and did I mention that the last track has the longest song title ever? This is a stellar album that retells the entire movie’s story just as effectively in its own distinct way.

Easily a must-listen.

A1 Sweetback Losing His Cherry 2:45
A2 Sweetback Getting It Uptight And Preaching It So Hard The Bourgeois Reggin Angels In Heaven Turn Around 5:00
A3 Come On Feet 4:15
A4 Sweetback’s Theme 7:36
B1a Hoppin John 2:25
B1b Voices 0:11
B2a Mojo Woman 2:43
B2b Voices 0:15
B3a Sanra Z 3:47
B3b Voices 0:17
B4a Reggin Hangin On In There As Best They Can 2:58
B4b Voices 1:13
B5 Wont Bleed Me 2:41
B6 The Man Tries Running His Usual Game But Sweetback’s Jones Is So Strong He Wastes The Hounds (Yeah! Yeah! And Besides That Will Be Coming Back Takin’ Names & Collecting Dues) 4:25

Melvin van Peebles infamous feature film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ is noted for being the very first so-called blaxploitation flick. The fact that he – together with the help of the legendary Stax label in Memphis – set out to promote the movie through an accompanying soundtrack is another interesting detail. 

A very young, rough Earth, Wind & Fire can be heard on this schizophrenic, spooky album. It’s not a pretty LP… far from it. It’s nasty, dangerous, brutally realistic, over the top and ugly. 

The overall sound of the record could best be described as a filthy smorgasbord of unwashed funky vibes: a soundscape consisting of coarse movie dialogue, snippets of country church gospel wailings (tremendously authentic versions of “This Little Light of Mine” and “Wade in the Water” are recurring themes here), sleazy after hour jazz bar riffs and the protruding, thick funk of hypnotizing jams. 

It’s not a coherent album either… Songs segue into one and another, snippets of dialogue serve as bridges, those ghostly churchy choirs pop up when you least expect it, and the raging voice of Sweetback just keeps on roaring throughout: railing against the police, the bourgeois reggin (reggin – spell it backwards…) the bloodhounds, the Man, the system, everything… 

In short, it has the sheer attitude and political cynicism (“Since when are you [cops] so interested in black folk… dead or alive?” -“Progress.”) that elevates this far from beautiful album to the status of hardcore, socio-political funk manifesto.

All about the Movie

Another classic by Melvin Van Peebles is the 1974  What The…You Mean I Can’t Sing?!  in our back pages here


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Conversation for album: Melvin Van Peebles – 1971 – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

  • Robert Banks
    Posted at 10:32h, 18 March 2018 Reply

    A very special funky Melvin ..Thanks

  • Majestic
    Posted at 10:36h, 18 March 2018 Reply

    Great album. Found this at a garage sale years ago.

  • Nikos aka Funkmysoul
    Posted at 12:14h, 18 March 2018 Reply

    Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is a 1971 American independent action thriller film written, produced, scored, edited, directed by and starring Melvin Van Peebles. His son Mario Van Peebles also appears in a small role, playing the title character as a young boy. It tells the picaresque story of a poor black man on his flight from the white authority.

    Van Peebles began to develop the film after being offered a three-picture contract for Columbia Pictures. No studio would finance the film, so Van Peebles funded the film himself, shooting it independently over a period of 19 days, performing all of his own stunts and appearing in several sex scenes, reportedly unsimulated. He received a $50,000 loan from Bill Cosby to complete the project. The film’s fast-paced montages and jump-cuts were unique features in American cinema at the time. The picture was censored in some markets, and received mixed critical reviews. However, it has left a lasting impression on African-American cinema.

    The musical score of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was performed by Earth, Wind & Fire. Van Peebles did not have any money for traditional advertising methods, so he released the soundtrack album prior to the film’s release in order to generate publicity. Initially, the film was screened only in two theaters in the United States. It went on to gross $4.1 million at the box office. Huey P. Newton celebrated and welcomed the film’s revolutionary implications, and Sweetback became required viewing for members of the Black Panther Party. According to Variety, it demonstrated to Hollywood that films which portrayed “militant” blacks could be highly profitable, leading to the creation of the blaxploitation genre, although critic Roger Ebert did not consider this example of Van Peebles’ work to be an exploitation film.

  • Ron Evans
    Posted at 01:23h, 19 March 2018 Reply

    Wooow 1971 and still listening

  • Carlos
    Posted at 01:43h, 19 March 2018 Reply

    Maravilloso, magistral !!!!!!! Gracias por subir esta gloria !!!!!!

  • Matrix
    Posted at 23:33h, 19 March 2018 Reply

    Woah…. nice nice nice stuff.
    thanx a lot.

  • Pablo
    Posted at 12:14h, 21 March 2018 Reply

    Boyz, thanks again. You don’t stop to surprise me. This one is another great record I never heard before. With my deep respect.

  • Ross
    Posted at 14:47h, 21 March 2018 Reply

    DAMN DAMN DAMN Melvin always had to get y’all 🔥🔥🔥🔥

  • MB
    Posted at 20:11h, 21 March 2018 Reply

    Hail from the capital Belgrade of Serbia

  • FlashX
    Posted at 01:22h, 22 March 2018 Reply

    Haven’t heard this great classic in years

  • Donovan Miles Jr.
    Posted at 14:43h, 22 March 2018 Reply

    AAGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!! so GODDAMN funky..

  • Demis
    Posted at 00:34h, 23 March 2018 Reply

    Killer. Thanks for posting the hot ones.

  • Noah
    Posted at 09:54h, 23 March 2018 Reply

    Oh hell yes! Thanks for posting.

  • Alessandro
    Posted at 10:16h, 23 March 2018 Reply

    Funk is the Truth. Excellent LP.

  • Gomez
    Posted at 13:57h, 23 March 2018 Reply

    Truly Amazed!!
    As always thanks for the great post.

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