Director: Gordon Parks Jr. Year: 1972
The soundtrack for Super Fly doubled as Curtis Mayfield's third studio album, one of the great soul records ever made. The ghoulish organs and horns provide Mayfield the dark, slicked-back atmosphere necessary for him to do some pondering about drugs and dealing in Harlem, backing a film that outgrew its original label as blaxploitation long ago. It got there in part because Mayfield makes you invest in the music, creating a groove to be taken seriously.
As drugs are exchanged and stakes are raised, Super Fly becomes a very crowded movie—characters mushed up together in the hot fog of the city. This is the kind of uncomfortable, sticky heat that factors into any plans you make, the kind that leaves you standing stock still on a subway platform begging for a breath of stale tunnel air. For as strong as the movie is, though, the soundtrack is better. Mayfield's album is one of the few soundtracks to outgross the film it backs. Super Fly is best known for its silky title track, but is an album/soundtrack laden with gold like "Freddie's Dead" and "Pusherman." Stream the full album below: