Super FlyClassic album spotlight
Contributing Writer Curtis Mayfield’s “Super Fly” was originally penned as the accompanying soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation film of the same name. The film followed the trials and tribulations of coke dealers trying to leave the business in our very own New York City.
Often considered one of the seminal R&B soul albums of the ‘60s and ‘70s, it is rivaled only by Marvin Gaye’s landmark “What’s Going On?” in influence. “Super Fly” soon outstripped the movie, its sales bolstered by the sale of two million singles of the title track. Mayfield, often cited as one of the founding fathers of funk, left an indelible mark on popular music. His style of combining Afro-Cuban percussion rhythms with a swinging chunky bassline was often emulated by dozens of other artists in the years that followed. A multi- instrumentalist and composer, Mayfield often played the instruments on his tracks.
“Super Fly” was also one of the first concept albums to achieve critical mainstream success. With its themes of drug use, destruction and self-liberation, the soundtrack spoke to the victims of the ghetto lifestyle. In his lyrics, Mayfield was highly critical of the drug dealers, who were the morally ambiguous main characters of the film.
The album starts off with the push and pull rhythm of “Little Child Runnin’ Wild,” whose multi-instrumental intro can be heard on later R&B tracks of the decade, before breaking it down with the funky “Freddie’s Dead.” The title track, sampled by The Beastie Boys, Notorious B.I.G. and Nelly, is as funky as it damning of the self-aggrandizement of drug dealers.
While the album hits its 40th birthday in July, the majority of its tracks still speak to the disenfranchised as timeless messages, and the beats remain as infectious and groovy as ever. Put it on for a spin next time you’re around something that even remotely resembles a dance floor.