This Week in Hip-Hop and R&B History: Superfly by Curtis Mayfield Sweeps the Nation

This Week in Hip-Hop and R&B History: Superfly by Curtis Mayfield Sweeps the Nation

– In 1972, the cult-classic Blaxploitation film, Superfly, was released, but the bigger story was the  Curtis Mayfield soundtrack album of the same name – Superfly

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

July of 1972 was a great and important moment in black culture. When the film, Superfly, was released it would go on to become one of the most influential black films ever to be produced. While there was a lot of controversy and debate about the message the movie sent to the community and beyond, no one could argue the greatness that was Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack album, Superfly.

In the early 70s, when the Blaxploitation genre began to gain popularity, they started the trend of incorporating a heavy dosage of funk and soul music into the films. However, in due time, Curtis Mayfield proved to be the undisputed king of such soundtracks. So much so, in fact, that the Superfly album outsold the movie itself – one of the few films to ever to do so.

Superfly, the album, is driven by Curtis Mayfield’s socially conscious lyrics about drug abuse, poverty, and overall urban distress. This being the case, it is viewed as a pioneering soul concept album, such as Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album, What’s Going On. Furthermore, Mayfield is credited with creating a strong element of complexity in terms of storytelling. This was seen through his ability to create a soundtrack that told the painfully real story of the Black urban experience in a way that did not necessarily glorify it. Yet, he was able to fit it into a movie that many feel did the opposite.

Superfly is an excellent display of Mayfield’s incredible songwriting, composition, and productions skills. John Bush of AllMusic has described the sound as a “melange of deep, dark grooves, trademarked wah-wah guitar, and stinging brass” – a description that still doesn’t truly give the album justice.

Following Superfly’s release, Mayfield was asked to work on soundtrack albums including the writing and production for Aretha Franklin’s Sparkle. The album has also received a long list of accolades such as a ranking of #69 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Written by DJ Robinson


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