After being screened at a select few cinemas, The Harder They Fall is today released on Netflix. Written, directed and produced by Jeymes Samuel, it features a stacked cast of A-listers, including Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, RJ Cyler, Damon Wayans Jr., and Deon Cole.
It’s classic Western territory: Jonathan Majors plays Nat Love who discovers that his old enemy, Idris Elba’s Rufus Buck, has been released from prison. His mind set on revenge, Love reunites his old gang of outlaws to square up against Buck’s own crew.
Samuel says he was inspired by the old Westerns he grew up on, with actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Stewart—but he always knew they were conspicuously devoid of any people of colour, at least in any substantial roles. “Traditionally in Hollywood westerns,” he says, “Black people, Chinese people, other people of colour, and women were always shown as subservient.”
Set on changing all that, Samuel took various different characters who were real, but lived at different times in different places, and set them against the backdrop of the real Old West. Although it’s not strictly a true story, there are grains of truth to it. The film is set in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery, when formerly enslaved people ventured out to the frontier for a fresh start and potentially find their fortunes. “After this movie no one will ever say there were no people of colour in the Old West,” says Samuel.
It’s a passion project of Samuel’s and one that’s been bubbling away in his imagination since he was a kid glued to old Westerns. Years later, Samuel was introduced to Jay-Z by Jay Electronica and the two ended up working together on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. A few other projects followed, including the Jay-Z: Legacy short, but eventually The Harder They Fall finally came into fruition.
The ethos of inclusivity is something that he and co-producer Jay-Z also put into the soundtrack they created together. A mixture of new releases and original creations, it’s a real mix of genres and eras. Music plays a crucial role in the film, perhaps more than most films, which is fitting given the obvious echoes of The Harder They Come, the 1972 Jamaican classic starring Jimmy Cliff.
“The whole story is being driven by music,” says Regina King. “He’s actually designing the shots to the music. Writing the words with a rhythm in his head.” The tracklist features a tonne of new and exclusive songs, all of which were produced by Samuel, including “Better Than Gold” by Barrington Levy. Elsewhere, new school dancehall singer Koffee contributes the title track, and there's a rare appearance from Ms. Lauryn Hill who joins Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara on “Black Woman”. Jay-Z features on two tracks, one of which is the recently-released “Guns Go Bang” with Kid Cudi, but the other sees him partner with Jadakiss, Conway The Machine and none other than our own homegrown hero, BackRoad Gee, whose commanding tones on “King Kong Riddim” can be heard bellowing through the trailer.
“I’m honored to have collaborated with such a diverse and talented array of artists to bring this film’s soundtrack to life,” Samuel says. “My vision was to create a versatile body of work that blends genres and eras in an innovative way. I hope that, through our collaborative work, fans will be able to really immerse themselves in the stories we’re trying to tell.”
Both the film and its soundtrack are exciting prospects, especially since this is such a unique chance to see so many actors whose stars are on the rise, together in one film. Aside from being a thrill-ride story of outlaws and gunslingers, it’s a refreshing opportunity to see the Old West recreated by a more inclusive cast.
The Harder They Fall – Tracklist
1. Edi Gathegi & R.J. Cyler – “Lightnin’ With The Blam Blams” (Skit)
2. Koffee – “The Harder They Fall”
3. Kid Cudi & Jay-Z – “Guns Go Bang”
4. Barrington Levy – “Better Than Gold”
5. Fatoumata Diawara & Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Black Woman”
6. Alice Smith – “Wednesday’s Child”
7. CeeLo Green – “Blackskin Mile”
8. Seal – “Ain’t No Better Love”
9. LaKeith Stanfield & Regina King – “We Ain’t No Nincompoop” (Skit)
10. Jay-Z, Jadakiss & Conway – “King Kong Riddim” f/ BackRoad Gee
11. Laura Mvula & Mayra Andrade – “We Go Harder”
12. Zazie Beetz & Jonathan Majors – “Is The Devil Dead?” (Skit)
13. Jeymes Samuel – “No Turning Around”
14. Pretty Yende – “Three And Thirty Years”
The Harder They Fall is available to watch on Netflix now.
The Harder They Fall soundtrack is released by Roc Nation in partnership with Netflix.