Fallen record stores like Tower and Coconuts aren't the only sorely missed casualties of the music industry's current digital age. See, there was once a time, way back in the 1990s and early 2000s, when record labels seized the opportunities afforded by new movies either starring rappers or taking place in urban, rap-friendly environments to release star-studded original soundtracks. Pooling their various resources and contacts, executive producers would reach out to artists from all regions for one common cause: to accompany a film with what would essentially become a fully mastered, elaborately package mixtape.

These became one of the few places where rap fans could hear KRS-One consciousness one minute, then feel vicariously gully as MC Eiht rapped about Compton's darkest stories. Unfortunately, as consumers stopped buying rap albums, labels fell back from spending bags of cash to assemble rappers from multiple record companies merely to push a motion picture.

Which is why the recently released soundtrack for Wu-Tang leader RZA's feature directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fists (in theaters tomorrow), feels like such an anomaly. Released independently, via RZA's new label Soul Temple, the 15-track companion piece for Robert Diggs' gloriously violent and richly stylized martial arts flick harkens back to the days when artists of all backgrounds frequently united to honor the same cinematic production. The Man with the Iron Fists features usual suspects, like RZA's Wu-Tang colleagues Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and Raekwon, but there's also Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Talib Kweli, Pusha T, and Joell Ortiz, amongst several others.

It's definitely a cause for celebration, not to mention a trip down memory lane to rank The 15 Best Hip-Hop Movie Soundtracks of All Time.

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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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