Release date: November 3, 1998
Record label: Def Jam
Music video director turned feature filmmaker Hype Williams made his big-screen debut with Belly. He sought to find out just how many gangster movie clichés could fit into one rapper-starring vanity project. While never boring, the finished product is a fascinating misfire, notable for Nas' wooden acting, DMX's unhinged charisma, and some striking cinematography.
Thankfully, the Def Jam Records team didn't share Williams' inefficiencies when creating Belly's original soundtrack. Rather, they went for broke, combining dynamite posse cuts (i.e., "Grand Finale," with DMX, Method Man, Nas, and Ja Rule) with heaters from the Wu-Tang ("Windpipe," featuring RZA, Ghostface Killah, and Ol' Dirty Bastard) and Roc-A-Fella ("Crew Love," with Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek) camps.
Even the R&B joints hit hard, namely D'Angelo's DJ Premier-produced "Devil's Pie" and Mya's "Movin' Out," strengthened by verses from Raekwon and Noreaga. —MB