As skater culture has spread from its suburban-Cali pool-carver origins to international inner-city street style, the accompanying soundtrack has shifted along with it. Nowadays, it feels more closely tied to post-backpacker hip-hop than it ever was with the hardcore or crossover thrash of skateboarding in the ’80s. Steven Caple Jr.’s film The Land takes full advantage of this, and not just by its association with executive producer Nas. The soundtrack for the film, in which aspiring young Cleveland skaters’ petty crimes spiral into something more ambitious and dangerous, gives the film’s place in hip-hop a deep focus. The soundtrack isn’t exploitatively star-packed, nor is it overly reliant on trying to break unknown indie favorites. It’s more of a mood-setting companion piece to a film uninterested in easy triumph.
The big names get a decent amount of shine: Machine Gun Kelly, who appears in the film as a convenience store employee, fits the vibe well, even if the hesher-rock simplicity of “Dopeman” won’t win too many skeptical converts in the “real hip-hop” set. And the beatless orchestral moodiness of “This Bitter Land,” a teamup between Nas and Erykah Badu (who has a small role as a sex worker in the film), is an allusive, impressive display of both artists’ respective vocal chops. But even with big-name artists pulling the weight—there’s a Kanye-featuring French Montana cut and a Pusha T/Jeremih collab—it’s the artists closer to the skate-rap underground who make the most of it. Fashawn’s character portrait “Cisco’s Theme,” the chest-collapsing bass panic of Jerreau’s “Looking for Something,” and the Dilla-via-Carpenter drones of Nosaj Thing’s instrumental score come closest to nailing that sense of rootless, teenage dread.