AND 1 Streetball Soundtrack

Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: AND 1 Streetball SoundtrackRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jamin Warren

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater introduced the soundtrack to be as prominent piece of the game as the graphics. Since then EA Sports has taken the reins as the leader in background rhythms, even recruiting Just Blaze to produce the complete soundtrack to NBA Live 2003. This year, Ubisoft recruited the And 1 empire to try their hand at the soundtrack game.

Although their foray into video gamee soundtracks is late compared to competitors, the And 1 Streetball (Ubisoft) collection boasts an unusual regional diversity, ranging from a rare Kool G Rap appearance on “This Is How We Do NYC” to Cleveland’s Ray Cash to Bay Area boomer Turf Talk. While other collections have focused more exclusively on the East Coast, the Streetball soundtrack crosses through as many zip codes as the And 1 tour bus.

Unfortunately, the multiple locales do not translate into multiple topics. In fact, the artists, perhaps in deference to the And 1 legacy (or their promotional loot), limit their performances to basketball analogies. The narrow focus makes soundtrack extremely tedious. Not only does Bun B deliver grade D material on “Hard in the Paint,” the puns just get plain silly: “I crossover like a rap song/We singing on the hook.”

Even the consistently dexterous Clipse stick to b-ball truisms, despite the fact that “VA Streetz” is their sole legal appearance since the Barbershop 2 Soundtrack. They seem unusually concerned with gushing over And 1 (“They bring hope to the ghetto like Cornbread and Earl”), as Malice ends his verse with the jingle: “The epitome of streetball/This is And 1.” Whether And 1 pushed their rappers to keep their material brutally similar or the artist volunteered to keep their verses germane, the basketball wordplay wears thin very quickly.

Is it unfair to criticize a basketball game soundtrack? Perhaps. As the background music for a streetball video game, And 1’s collection functions fine. In fact, the production manages well (although, the use of referee whistles gets totally out of hand.) San Quinn’s “Take Money, Make Money” snaps energetically while Scram Jones lays down a thunderstorm of percussion for Freeway on “Stand Up.” It’ll be fine mood music for the player select or pause screens.

But as a collection of material sold and packaged outside of the game, the And 1 collection falls flat. Fifty minutes of basketball wordplay is rough on the ears. Conversely, Electronic Arts (who arguably has less connection to Hip-Hop culture than And 1) collecting amazing material from rappers, regardless of content, EA Sports built a successful model for fans to enjoy outside of the game. (The NBA Live 06 soundtrack features cuts from Lupe Fiasco, Afu-Ra, and Fort Minor completely unrelated to basketball.) If And 1 hopes to keep up with EA, they’d best abandon their current mold and let the rappers do the talking, not the brand’s name