Like many, many people, I’m watching Luke Cage on Netflix. I could write a bit about how timely a series about a bulletproof Black hero is, but I don’t feel like stating the obvious today.
What I will say, however, is how much I’m enjoying Marvel’s latest streaming blockbuster from a musical standpoint. More so than its lead-in shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Cage showcases music as if it’s an actual character. Its blend of classical, funk, R&B and Hip-Hop are more than just precursors to specifics moments and precise fill-ins for fight or love scenes. They encourage a physical reaction. It’s rare that you’re watching a TV show or movie and it’s score grabs you to the point of forcing a head bop or foot tap. That means there’s a soul somewhere in those violin strings and bass strums.
Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad on Making ‘Unapologetically Black’ Music for Netflix’s ‘Luke Cage’
I spoke to Luke Cage’s composers, Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammed about scoring the show. The night before, I hit Marvel’s Luke Cage: The Live Score Concert at the Ace Hotel Theatre to watch the two lead a 40-piece orchestra with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson acting as maestro. The last (and maybe only) time I’d seen an orchestra rock was when I saw Nas perform Illmatic with one as part of Dave Chappelle’s stand-up residency at Radio City Music Hall in New York City a few years back. Without the rhymes of a legendary rapper, Luke Cage was a great night that incorporated all the aforementioned genres of music.
Check out my interview with the guys here. We talked about how they embodied Harlem through the score, being employed by Marvel, and Ali told an emotional story about how his Tribe brother Phife Dawg—may he rest in peace—inspired a song on Luke Cage’s eighth episode.
p.s. “Power Man” is an alias Luke uses in the comic world after apparently hanging out with Iron Man and other sensationally named crime-fighters. Hence the title for this here blog article.