The soundtrack for Netflix’s Beats is multicultural and specific to its regional setting. Helmed by acclaimed video music director Chris Robinson, the music drama focuses on the relationship between a disgraced producer and an anxiety-ridden teenager with a talent for producing hip-hop music.
Beats takes place in Chicago, with violence playing a major narrative role. Romelo Reese (Anthony Anderson) has been around the block, so to speak, and works as a school security guard to pay the bills. In contrast, 17-year-old August Monroe (Khalil Everage) stays at home with his mother after being traumatized by the murder of his sister Kari (Megan Sousa), this coming after his father returned home from military service overseas and passed away from a heart attack.
Despite Beats' hip-hop premise, the soundtrack isn’t necessarily loaded up with mainstream bangers that play over transitional sequences from act to act. Instead, the majority of the film focuses on August’s evolution as a producer, which means that much of the featured music is raw and unfinished. Still, the soundtrack does include retro classics and new releases from up-and-coming artists. Below are the main songs featured in Beats.
Womp Womp - Valee
Afrocubrazil - Nomad
Cannon - August Beat #1 - Cannon
Red Light Green Light - Knitwit. ft. KR Tha Starr
00 Pressure (Rough) - Z Money
Jungle - Albee
Life Worth Living - Rose Royce
Niyah's Song (Whole Lotta Love) by Tobi Lou and Dreezy
Chop 22 (Remembrance) - Young Chop
Apache - Incredible Bongo Band
Orce - Jairus Mozee
No Cap - Nikkie Bandz
Kari's Song (Long Way Home) - HappyBirthdayCalvin
Lounar - Tobi Lou
Queen Cabrini Freestyle - Dreezy
I Need You - Joe C. Ryan III
Gonna Be What It’s Gonna Be - O-M
Blue Racks - Nikkie Bandz
Stampede - Vox
When You Need Me - Hendrix
Early on, "Womp Womp" accompanies a chase sequence that establishes the inherent violence in the film’s south Chicago setting. The track precedes a moving conversation between siblings August and Kari, in which the latter sings a melody that will become crucial later on. In a dark twist, Kari is then murdered, and "Womp Womp" kicks in again over the title sequence.
When Anderson’s Romelo is asked to track down AWOL students, "Apache" plays over a neighborhood sequence in which the character attempts to connect with the local youths. Given that Romelo is a former music producer with a taste for sampling eclectic music, the throwback cue makes sense, as the Incredible Bongo Band’s version is indeed a cover of 1960 instrumental. The song's melody was later sampled by Sir Mix-A-Lot for the 1996 single “Jump on It” (a cover of The Sugarhill Gang's take on "Apache").
Once Romelo and August begin making music together (unbeknownst to the high schooler’s mother), "Afrocubrazil" brings the two producers together. The fusion of cultures and musical styles underlines August’s creative vision, and the track also highlights the concept that Romelo has much to teach his protege by introducing him to other genres and techniques.
The rest of Netflix’s Beats soundtrack incorporates modern hip-hop songs ("Orce", "Lunar" etc.), along with musical motifs connected to specific characters a la "Niyah's Song (Whole Lotta Love)” and "Kari's Song (Long Way Home)". But it’s the opening act that sets the tone for Beats, and establishes the creative mindsets of both Romelo and August, both of whom are connected by Chicago but separated by different perspectives and experiences. As the saying goes, music brings people together.