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Anyone familiar with The Warriors knows that Walter Hill's 1979 cult classic was inspired by the real-life gang violence that plagued The Bronx from the late '60s into the early '70s. It was a dismal time for the borough, one where socio-economic conditions, reckless urban planning, the building of Robert Moses' Cross Bronx Expressway (which left more than 1,500 families without homes), and the migration of the upper and middle class were just some of the contributing factors that led to its decline. Things were getting so bad that it became a common occurrence for landlords to cut off utilities in an effort to drive out tenants so that they could burn down the homes in order to collect on the insurance payouts. With feelings of hopelessness and frustration mounting, the poorest members of the community (who felt left behind to essentially fend for themselves), banded together and formed street gangs as a means of survival.

The violence that followed over the years escalated to such a level that The Bronx resembled a war torn region, and the causalities were left lying in the streets for uncertain periods of time as emergency responders were rightfully hesitant to come in and remove the bodies, leaving the task up to police clad in riot gear who themselves often refused to venture into what was considered hostile territory. All of this is captured in the Shan Nicholson written and directed documentary Rubble Kings through archive footage, photos, and interviews conducted with former gang members (including former Black Spades member Afrika Bambaataa), and it serves as a brief but insightful glimpse into the New York gang culture of the '70s.

Little Shalimar (of Def Jux act Chin Chin who has also worked as a producer with Run the Jewels) wrote a compelling instrumental score for the film that effectively captured all of the unrest of the times, and, for the standalone soundtrack, he's expanded on that approach by writing another impressive set of instrumentals and pairing them with rap tracks featuring a diverse cast of heavy hitters including Mr Muthafuckin’ eXquire, Ghostface Killa, and Ka, all of whom turn in strong contributions. What's unique about these songs though is that their predictably hard-hitting bars turn out not to be the main focus here.

Be it the skittering trap of 'Savage Habits' or the creeping terror of the Ka featured 'Delaney Card', Shalimar is more concerned with building and sustaining the dramatic arc of the film through his production and the vocals rather than placing emphasis on the lyrical content itself. Still, one of the high points here unsurprisingly comes from the blistering Run the Jewels featured title track, where, over distorted winding loops that resemble sirens blaring off in the distance, skittering hi-hats, and an unrelenting propulsive beat, Killer Mike and El-P deliver particularly grim and devastating bars depicting the violence surrounding modern street life.

As good as these cuts are, Shalimar is at his best when he sticks to crafting instrumental jams that not only reflect the cultural diversity of the '70s, but also capture the simmering anxiety of the times as well. Mixing hints of Eastern flourishes with Latin-flavored percussion, 'The Piano District (Gentrification Boogie)' (and especially) 'The Revolution Might Be Televised' come closest to capturing the post-civil-rights era tension responsible for much of the unrest, while the soulful 'Edge of the Edge' is, in a way, a desperate plea for calm amidst a never-ending cycle of turbulence, its harmonies feeling both uplifting and despondent at once.

The samples of dialogue lifted directly from the documentary also help to give the soundtrack an arresting quality, with one clip in particular, the opening sample to 'The Revolution Might Be Televised', being the most sobering. In it, former Ghetto Brothers President Carlos "Karate Charlie" Suarez discusses the assassinations of his heroes Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, and how those events essentially shattered the momentum of the civil rights movement. Peace does eventually come though, and Rubble Kings ends on a surprisingly (and much needed) uplifting note, but it comes at the expense of another tragedy. In 1971, Ghetto Brothers peacemaker Cornell "Black Benjy" Benjamin was brutally murdered while attempting to break up a gang fight, leading to the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting, a truce that was organized by the Ghetto Brothers in an effort to tone down the already out of hand violence and prevent possibly one of the most violent conflicts in the history of New York.

Though the violence never fully dissipated in the wake of the treaty, it cooled off enough to allow for some breathing room, and in turn, helped usher in the block party culture that saw former gang members laying down their weapons and picking up mics and turntables, turning their attention instead to a new form of musical expression that would come to be known as hip-hop. Which in a way justifies the inclusion of the modern rap cuts here, even if it isn't hard to argue that Shalimar could have just as easily sidestepped them altogether in favor of sticking with what works best for him, which in this case, is laying down the type of music that is both timeless and modern that preserves and honors one of the more turbulent times in American culture.

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