Def Jam Recordings will issue the soundtrack for “The Hate U Give” on Oct. 12, featuring new songs by the rising stars Arlissa and Bobby Sessions (pictured above). The 20th Century-Fox film – which takes its title from Tupac Shakur’s acronym THUG LIFE, and deals with highly charged racial issues – opens a week later, on Oct. 19.
“It’s a natural fit for what we do as a company, and the culture of our company,” Rich Isaacson, exec VP of the label, tells Variety. “The movie is about race, about people who are victims of oppression who are just trying to live their lives. So many of our artists speak to these issues, from the beginning of Def Jam to today.”
The film, and the album, features hip-hop and R&B tracks from Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Logic, Jadakiss and others. Arlissa’s “We Won’t Move” and Sessions’ “The Hate U Give,” prominently placed at the end of the film, are expected to get a major push as awards season gets underway.
Danielle Diego, executive VP and head of music at Fox, called Def Jam “the preeminent hip-hop label. While the film is a Black Lives Matter story, it’s also about a young girl finding her voice. We were trying to find the right artist for the end of the movie, but we also wanted the hip-hop element in the film.”
Nearly all of the tracks in the film are on the soundtrack album. “The title of the film is based on a Tupac song, so it was important that they have Tupac music,” Isaacson said. “Then there were opportunities for Def Jam artists to take the place of temp music, and of course they wanted to have original music that fit the emotions of the film. It worked out amazingly well.”
It was intensely personal for Sessions, whose cousin James Harper, an unarmed 31-year-old, was killed in 2012 by a white Dallas police officer. “Drawing from that personal experience, I felt like I could contribute something of value to the film.”
Sessions’ own upbringing mirrored that of Starr (Amandla Stenberg), the film’s lead character, who finds she must act differently depending on whether she’s at home in her black neighborhood or at her mostly white school. “I grew up in Pleasant Grove, a black community in southeast Dallas,” the rapper told Variety. “When I got to the seventh grade my parents moved us to an all-white neighborhood in Dallas County. It was a culture shock.
“I hope the song, along with the film, will inspire young people to find their voice, speak out, and have these uncomfortable conversations about what’s going on in our community, and hopefully motivate everyone to do something about it.”
Music supervisor Season Kent said she “really wanted to define these two worlds that she’s in. Director George Tillman Jr. wanted to set a vibe. These artists have really experienced these things, and talk about it in an honest way.”
Arlissa, the 25-year-old South London performer, contributes the defiant anthem “We Won’t Move,” which plays under the film’s final scenes. She saw the film on a visit to Los Angeles and when asked if she’d consider writing something, responded, “Hell yeah!” she tells Variety. “The scenes made me cry so much. Then I also read the book and kind of immersed myself in that world.
“The film is about injustice, this constant brutality that generations have faced. But at the end of the day, it’s also about what we can do when faced with adversity. You may always feel alone, but when you do speak up, when you use that voice, you connect with so many different people who feel the same. We are showing that there is hope,” she says.
Fox’s Diego says that message was important: “These people are not without hope. It’s about community, about family. We needed that emotional moment at the end of the film. It’s an empowering moment for Starr. Arlissa captured that.”
As part of the marketing campaign, Sessions will join the actors at some screenings in the U.S., while Arlissa – who performed the song at the Toronto Film Festival – will also appear at a London screening. “We’re inviting tastemakers, radio personalities, a who’s-who in many markets,” says Isaacson, “so we can create a cultural conversation about the film because it’s so important to our brand, and to our artists.”
See the full track listing below:
1. Pusha T “Hold On”
2. Kendrick Lamar “DNA”
3. Jadakiss “Hold You Down”
4. Tupac “Only God Can Judge Me”
5. Arlissa “We Won’t Move”
6. Travis Scott “Goosebumps”
7. Bobby Sessions “The Hate U Give”
8. Tupac “Keep Ya Head Up”
9. Logic “Everybody”
10. Beau Young Prince “Kill Moe”
11. 21 Savage, Offset, & Metro Boomin “Ghostface Killers”
12. NBA Youngboy “Left Hand Right Hand”
13. Billie Eilish “Ocean Eyes”
14. Amandla Stenberg “Always”