Blaxploitation films of the 70s and early 80s entertained and empowered their audiences by depicting brown heroes combating racism and greed through outlandish violence. One such film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, exemplified this and set the framework for cult films thereafter – Shaft and Super Fly among them. Equally striking and ahead of its time was the film’s soundtrack, composed by Melvin Van Peebles, who was also the film’s writer and director. The songs were performed by a young, and then largely unknown, Earth, Wind & Fire.
From the campy action and social awareness of these films emerged profound soundtracks that more often than not overshadowed the films themselves. The music itself was a character device, driving the narrative in fitting and at times explosive ways.