‘Boyz N The Hood’ Soundtrack Celebrates its 30th Anniversary

Autumn Simon

Thirty years ago, the late John Singleton introduced the world to South-Central Los Angeles from the perspectives of three African American youths. From childhood to adolescence, Tre, Ricky and Doughboy’s experiences are plagued by institutionalized racism, gang violence and trauma. Considered one of the most groundbreaking and gut-wrenching films of all time, Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood was surprisingly his debut project. A movie that is young, poignant yet gritty, needed a stony soundtrack to match. Singleton tapped into leading character and legendary West Coast rapper Ice Cube, along with Tevin Campbell, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Too Short, and more to create the 1991’s film eponymous soundtrack.

As the nineties rolled in, the Black urban lifestyle dominated pop culture. Music was getting raunchier, and star-studded movies were featuring prominent Black rappers and R&B artists. With the merge of music and film, various projects needed a way to get audiences to the theatre and keep them entertained outside of it. Enter- the Music From the Motion Picture- which offers fans a collection of songs that are featured in the film.

While most will remember the powerful film ahead of its 30th anniversary, it’s also necessary to not sleep on its soundtrack. Boyz N The Hood perfectly visualizes the urban music genre that helped kick off the nineties. The culturally significant film’s soundtrack is a snapshot of West Coast music and its lifestyle. Four years prior, in 1987, Ice Cube wrote the debut single for N.W.A.’s Eazy-E titled “Boyz-n-the-Hood.” The track’s lyrics became an oral history report about a Black boy’s day “in the hood.” As “’Cruisin down the street in my six-fo’” played along the Crenshaw strip from hundreds of Chevy Impalas, one of the many listeners was a young Singleton. He was in awe with the way Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and the others told the stories of South Central L.A., and how the out-of-state crowds looked at it as a “Wild Wild West” spectacle. He learned to write what he knew and wrote the screenplay for Boyz N The Hood. Legend has it when writing these characters, he wanted all N.W.A. members to star in the film.

Fortunately, one member of the group was able to fulfill Singleton’s wishes and join the film’s cast. Ice Cube just went solo and started creating his debut album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted when he met Singleton. The duo discussed the project and, by summer, they began filming. Commencing the hard-hitting album is Cube’s unapologetic in-your-face “How To Survive In South Central.” Doubling as a narrator and tour guide, Cube gives tourists a firsthand look at one of the most notorious areas in the United States. More authentic West Coast gangsta rap can be found in “Growin’ Up in the Hood” by Compton’s Most Wanted. The single’s music video featured clips from the film and it officially became the movie’s theme song. Cube’s protegee Yo-Yo and other West Coast Legend Too $hort also make an appearance on this album.

While the album is predominantly a hip-hop project, fans can also expect some R&B and funk. G-funk or gangsta-funk originated in the West Coast back in the late 80s and early 90s. This genre became the unofficial sound of Los Angeles, and this album is heavily influenced by this era. Two of the soundtrack’s top hits were the offset tracks. Tevin Campbell’s “Just Ask Me To” adds some needed lightheartedness to the project. Though South Central is portrayed as a concrete jungle that just so happens to be fifteen minutes away from the beach, this area is also filled with resilient joy. West Coast culture thrives beyond the ghetto and offers the Black community some fun through cruising, dancing, and spreading good vibes. This hit is the perfect reflection of that fun and brings that urban New Jack Swing on the album. At only 14, a young Teven Campbell released this second single on his debut album. It peaked at number 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number nine on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

This coming-of-age film also needed the perfect love ballad to tell the story of two teenagers trying to maintain their relationship through their city’s trauma and growing pains. A small backstory of the movie is about relationships between various people in this struggling community. From father and son and mother and son to brothers and next-door neighbors, all these partnerships are trying to prevail throughout this tale. Unfortunately, many of these unions are crushed within the film but the subject allows us to question “if togetherness could be a cure to times of trauma and neglect?” Tony! Toni! Tone! crafted the perfect sonnet to portray young love. “Just Me and You” is timeless and can be played at school dances, proms and even weddings. 

It’s amazing to see that even today, movie soundtracks still hold a place in our hearts and a spot on our playlists. While watching Boyz N the Hood, the soundtrack could be heard throughout the background of this dynamic story. The collection of songs is a perfect storytelling tool and allows us to visualize the film without necessarily watching it.

In celebration of the film’s 30th anniversary, we’re asking you to tell us your favorite songs from the soundtrack. Let us know in the comments below.