Actor/filmmaker Michael Rapaport is, of course, familiar to hip-hop fans as the director of last year's acclaimed documentary, Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest . But as longtime fans of his work know, Mike Rap's cinematic connection to rap began far earlier , having first made noise in Hollywood opposite N'Bushe Wright in the interracial love story, Zebrahead - a film whose soundtrack was executive produced by MC Serch, and featured Nas' debut single, "Halftime." Mike's gone on to work with such celebrated auteurs as Tony Scott, Woody Allen, John Singleton, Ted Demme, and Spike Lee. But we wanted to hit up this classic New Yawker through-and-through to discuss soundtracks. Personal ones. As in the records that changed his life.
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1. Lou Reed - "Walk on the Wild Side" (RCA, 1973)
Michael Rapaport: The first song that ever had an impact or impression on me was "Walk On the Wild Side" by Lou Reed. I heard it when I was around 6-years-old and I use to call it the "DoDoDo Song" because of the chorus part. I just remember loving hearing it on the radio whenever it was played, and me and my brother would dance around the house and try to sing it. Of course, when A Tribe Called Quest sampled it sixteen years or so later for "Can I Kick It" I was very excited about hearing one of my favorite childhood songs in a hip-hop joint.
2. Sugar Hill Gang - "Rapper's Delight" (Sugarhill, 1979)
Michael Rapaport: "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang was huge for me. My father worked at a radio station in NYC called WKTU Disco 92, and he would bring home all kinds of records that were hot at the time - Mtume, Brothers Johnson, and Donna Summer-type disco records. One day he brought home an orange promotional copy of "Rapper's Delight" and said to me, this is a "rap record" we're gonna start playing on the radio. That was it for me. I would listen to that record for hours straight, over and over — the 15-minute version, the shorter version and then the instrumental version — and try to say all the lyrics without stopping. I still don't know every word to that song but I still try every time I hear it. That song had the biggest impact on my life.
3. Minnie Riperton - "Lovin' You" (Epic, 1974)
Michael Rapaport: This song came out when I was around 8-years-old and the only way I would get to hear it was on the radio. The birds chirping in the beginning always stuck out to me as a child. Also her voice goes so high; as a kid I always felt the calmness and genuineness of that song even though I didn't understand all the words. And as a kid I guess hearing "Lovin' You" sung in such a gentle way from a woman made an impression on me. I clearly remember Casey Kasem introducing the song during his famous countdown and just staring at the radio listening, trying to imagine what Minnie Riperton looked like. At the time I had no idea but she sounded so damn good.
4. "Eric B Is President" (Zakia, 1986)
Michael Rapaport: I remember hearing about the song before I actually heard it. People were talking about it and saying lyrics and Wop dancing to it. Hip-hop songs were like urban folklore in '86 — if you didn't hear it live on the radio or have a tape of it you had to wait and wait and wait until your moment came. Finally on a Saturday night in Howard Projects in Brooklyn during the spring or summer it came on the radio when my friends and I were outside and that was it. The beat, Rakim's voice and the sample came on Red Alert's radio show. I will never forget that and I don't have a great memory. Everyone was like that's that shit , and I also saw dudes Wopping it up for the first time to "Eric B. Is President." The lyrics are still so far advanced. The beat is crazy slow but it all makes perfect sense.
5. Bobby Womack - "If You Think You're Lonely" (Beverly Glen, 1981)
Michael Rapaport: "If You Think You're Lonely" by Bobby Womack is definitely my favorite slow jam of all-time. I heard it when I was 16 and going through my first high school heartbreak. I recorded it off the radio and would listen to it over and over and imagine I was singing that song to the chick who had broken my heart. I always love the riff where Bobby says, "But I've done my time, and it's your time now." That song always makes me feel better even though it's such a sad song. But at the end of it Bobby seems like he came outta the heartbreak, so I always feel the same way to when it's over. I truly love Bobby Womack and feel like I know him in a way because of that song.