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Review: 'The Land' Original Soundtrack

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

The latest project from hip-hop icon Nas is ambitious even by his standards. Queens' finest is the executive producer of the new feature film The Land and its star-studded original soundtrack.


The Land, an independent film by first-time director Steven Caple Jr., follows four Cleveland inner-city teen friends – Cisco (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Junior (Moises Arias), Boobie (Ezri Walker), and Patty Cake (Rafi Gavron) – determined to turn their passion for skateboarding into their No. 1 priority. The soundtrack, however, looks like anything but an indie affair. Featuring superstars like Kanye West, Pusha T, French Montana, Erykah Badu, Jeremih and the movie's executive producer, the songs' topics cover various stages of the game, in turn creating a narrative of the struggles faced in realizing a dream. There's a rawness at play throughout, interweaving a range of vibes from Alina Baraz & Galimatias' dreamy electro-soul "Fantasy" to the hyped, yet rigid collaboration "Paid" by Pusha T and Jeremih, to Nas and Badu's agonizing, yet genuine and hopeful ode to inner-city living, "This Bitter Land." (Badu is also the film's co-executive producer with Machine Gun Kelly.)

The Land, in stores and streaming beginning July 29, is a rare accomplishment: a soundtrack that brings the story of its film to life, and creates one of its own at the same time. It's an experience full of rich, raw stories about fighting to strive, and using one's environment as an influence, not a distraction.

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