Soundtracks can either be iconic or forgettable, there’s rarely a middle ground. Nostalgia aside, the audacity of the original Space Jam soundtrack is matched with the sheer audacity of the film itself. If you’re down with Michael Jordan playing basketball with the Looney Tunes then Bugs Bunny spitting bars written by Jay-Z isn’t that crazy a concept either. The original Space Jam soundtrack is pretty much an ironclad classic–minus the one song by the actual real-life monster R. Kelly. The thing about that record and what makes it work is that it’s not “basketball” music, it’s just fantastic 90’s hip-hop and RnB. “Hit ‘em High” is a fucking fight song and you can’t convince me otherwise. Space Jam: A New Legacy soundtrack didn’t understand the assignment. Instead of soulful, upbeat music to compliment the idea of the crossover, this soundtrack enlists A-listers to simply phone it in. In this shallow attempt of curation, we get a lesser version of these artists and a mostly forgettable record.
It starts off strong, maybe a bit too strong for what’s in store for the rest of the album. The Just Blaze produced “We Win feat. Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin” is just so high of a high, everything behind it’s triumph falls flat. To be fair, there are some genuine, non-basketball related cuts but their too generic to appreciate. “Control the World” finds 24kGolden outshining a bored Lil Wayne. “Mercy” by the Jonas Brothers is passable until the overworked drums flood the entire track. The colorful, female driven track “Hoops” is an early, energetic highlight. Here, Saweetie, Salt-N-Pepa and Kash Doll connect both generations of Space Jam fans effortlessly. All respect to Onyx but flipping their iconic, “Let the boys be boys” on Lil Tecca‘s “Gametime with Aminé” feels oddly dated for a production so concerned with its family friendly image. Big Freedia is so watered down on “Goin’ Looney” it hurts.
When the artists are having fun, it’s easy to get swept along with them. Lil Uzi Vert almost reaches parody with his version of “Pump Up The Jam”, which features a notably slick restructuring of the iconic synth stabs. The hook on the other hand, “I dunk like LeBron and I shoot like Durant” is a tad too silly though. BROCKHAMPTON is having a blast with “MVP,” as they are on most songs, but they still keep things rather tame vocally. “About That Time Feat. Dame D.O.L.L.A., G-Eazy, P-Lo and White Dave” is solid and stacked enough to be this album’s “Hit em High”, it’s catchy as hell and the one moment the album feels in the zone. It may not go down in history like its predecessor, but it does manage to keep the party going during halftime. With all that said, how are you gonna’ make a fucking Space Jam soundtrack without one Bugs Bunny verse? Nobody called Chris Rock? Psh, ya buggin’.