When Spike Lee’s Love & Basketball was released 20 years ago exactly today (21st April 2000), it was celebrated as a mainstream romantic film featuring Black characters, but I treasured it for so much more because of the amazing soundtrack.
Prince-Bythewood, a former UCLA track runner who played basketball in high school, was working as a TV writer in the mid-1990s. But she longed to tell a semi-autobiographical story about a female baller. She quit her job, wrote the script and began shopping it around. With New Line Cinema, Prince-Bythewood was able to explore the lives of her protagonists, Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy McCall (Omar Epps), on her terms. The movie follows the childhood neighbours as they move from competitors on the court to confidants and companions off of it. Some scenes in the movie remain with us, like when Monica and Quincy share their first kiss before a bike ride to school and, of course, when Monica plays Quincy in a game of one-on-one for his heart two weeks before he’s due to wed another woman. There were rumours of a remake but Prince-Bythewood shut that down recently, it’s not going to happen.
Back to the music, the album dropped on the 18th of April through Overbrook Records and Interscope Records, and mostly consisted of contemporary R&B, with some hip-hop. The soundtrack wasn’t a phenomenal success and it peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200. But it did give us some amazing classic songs like ‘It Takes Two’- Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, ‘I Like’- Guy, ‘Holding Back the Years’- Angie Stone, ‘Sweet Thing’- Rufus & Chaka Khan, ‘I Want to Be Your Man’- Zapp & Roger. MeShell Ndege’ocello’s “Fool of Me” helped punctuate this story of childhood friends who love each other almost as much as they love the game of basketball. The new tracks included Maxwell’s ‘This Woman’s Work’ and Lucy Pearl made a hit with ‘Dance Tonight’ and Donell Jones’ ‘I’ll Go’. Other highlights of the soundtrack include songs from MC Lyte and Al Green. This is definitely one to listen to in this ‘lockdown’ and relive the year 2000.
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