Release date: Vol. 1, September 20, 1995; Vol. 2, April 2, 1996
Record label: Capitol

After the reasonably straightforward, though nonetheless devastating, hood drama Menace II Society, the Hughes Brothers went ambitious for their sophomore film, Dead Presidents. It's many things: a heist movie, an intimate character study, a coming-of-age drama, and a Vietnam film. The problem, then, is that Dead Presidents never achieves cohesion. The film's as messy as it is frequently thrilling.

The soundtrack, however, is uniformly excellent. Comprised largely of classic '70s soul and funk jams, the two-volume series favors artists like James Brown ("The Payback," "I Got the Feelin'"), Isaac Hayes ("Walk on By," "The Look of Love"), and Curtis Mayfield ("We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue"), with a little Jay-Z ("Dead Presidents," of course) thrown in for good measure.

Save for Hov, the Dead Presidents soundtrack discs make for the perfect Now That's What I Call Good Music: 1970s Edition compilation. —MB