Today Furious 7, the latest and perhaps last ride in the Fast and Furious franchise as we know it, speeds into theaters. If this truly is the final installment before the series takes a radical post-Paul Walker departure, it marks the end of an era not just for fans of the wonderfully absurd action car films, but a very special chapter in the story of film and music.
Since the first film hit theaters in 2001, the Fast and Furious films might be the last of the film franchises to continue strengthening its relationship with its fans through the medium of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Along with serving as a time capsule for seven different eras of popular music, the soundtracks also made the tie between the rhythm and the racing that much tighter. It is with seven quarter-miles in our rearview mirror that we look back at the past and the music of The Fast and the Furious.
The Fast and The Furious (2001)
Musicians acting in the film: Ja Rule
Watching the first Fast and Furious film today makes for a striking snapshot of pre-9/11 American action films. Further enforcing this is a nu-metal rock and shiny-suit era hip-hop soundtrack. Ja Rule appears in the film as Edwin, a drag racer who we're introduced to while Ja Rule's title track from the film's soundtrack -- specifically the part that says the name of the film -- is overheard. Also notable is how audience demand for the film's music was so huge, it resulted in a second soundtrack release, More Fast and Furious, best remembered for the experimental controversial anti-piracy technology that wouldn't allow the CDs to be played on computer disc drives.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Musicians acting in the film: Ludacris, Tyrese, Jin
With Vin Diesel taking a step away from the franchise, 2 Fast 2 Furious looked to fill that void by tripling down on the musician roles. Co-starring Tyrese, the film also gives us Ludacris in a minor role that would increase in the later installments, as well as Jin as one of Luda's assistants. Not unlike Ja Rule in the previous film, Luda is introduced while his theme for the film, "Act a Fool," plays the part where he says the name of the movie.
The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Musicians acting in the film: Bow Wow
Taking place in the future (chronologically speaking, in-between the 6th and 7th films), Tokyo Drift's soundtrack falls into the Hollywood tradition of making things seem futuristic through the use of electronic music, along with techno-fused hip-hop. The film breaks tradition by not having Bow Wow rap the theme, replacing him with Tokyo's own Teriyaki Boyz.
Fast & Furious (2009)
Musicians acting in the film: None
The most serious film in the series, Fast & Furious does away with some of the more silly aspects of the other films, and that unfortunately meant no fun music cameos, or even a theme. We do get the soundtrack scored by The Neptunes and a collaboration with Pitbull as the lead single, but even the track's video has pretty much nothing to do with the film.
Fast Five (2011)
Musicians acting in the film: Tyrese, Ludacris
Fast Five is universally considered one of the best films in the series for tying the best aspects of the previous four films together, getting things back on track with a wonderfully absurd action narrative. Adding to the tailor-made return to form for the franchise is a remix of Don Omar's "How We Roll" specifically made for the film. The track sounds like it could be the heartbeat of any of the other movies in the series.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Musicians acting in the film: Tyrese, Ludacris
Without getting into spoiler territory, a big part of Fast & Furious 6's story is the return of characters we once thought were permanently gone from the franchise. That happens to be the case with the soundtrack as well. Along with the surprisingly fun 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa collaboration "We Own It (Fast & Furious)," we also get Jin's return, if only to the soundtrack.
Furious 7 (2015)
Musicians acting in the film: Tyrese, Ludacris, Bow Wow, Iggy Azelea
The latest soundtrack in the serious, Furious 7, actually has enough of a fan base to warrant two theme songs, "Ride Out" by Kid Ink featuring Tyga, Wale, YG and Rich Homie Quan, and "Go Hard or Go Home" by Wiz Khalifa and Iggy Azalea, the latter of which has a brief cameo in the film herself. "Ride Out's" collaboration is such a family affair, it captures the family theme of the series and serves a fine possible farewell to the franchise.
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