The Unexpected Hip-Hop Crossover in New Netflix Series 'Luke Cage': Everything You Need to Know

Marvel's Luke Cage
Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

Marvel's Luke Cage

Following the release of Baz Luhrmann's series The Get Down, Netflix is adding more hip-hop to its lineup with the forthcoming Marvel production Luke Cage. The story centers on a Harlem superhero (portrayed by Mike Colter, previously seen on fellow Netflix mate and Marvel show Jessica Jones), whose powers include superhuman strength and unbreakable skin. 

Thanks to showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, though, Luke Cage will also be drenched in hip-hop references. Coker, a former music journalist who penned VIBE's cover story on The Notorious B.I.G.'s death, has gone on to help produce hit shows like NBC's Southland, Showtime's Ray Donovan and CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles.

Before Luke Cage's premiere Friday, here are all the hip-hop elements of the superhero action thriller.

The Score

A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad has signed on as musical supervisor alongside musician Adrian Younge. While the duo previously worked together on Souls of Mischief's 2014 album There Is Only Now, each music man carries his own weight -- Younge has helped construct tracks for Royce Da 5'9'' and Ghostface Killah, while Muhammad comprised one-half of the production collective The Ummah with fellow Tribe member Q-Tip

Muhammad recently described creating the sound for Luke Cage in tandem with Younge and Coker. "Adrian and I took a lot of direction from Cheo. He developed the series with music having as much of a leading role as the other characters. Cheo, Adrian and I speak the same language, musically speaking, so it was easy to compose based on his direction," he recently told Blavity. "He wanted the series to have a hip-hop foundation. Adrian and I interpreted that as meaning we could use the source material sampled in many classic hip-hop songs as the source of inspiration. We also wanted the Luke Cage series to have it’s own unique sound, identifiable only to Luke Cage. We also wanted it to sound unlike anything else being composed for television right now."

Even the trailers have tapped hip-hop classics for the soundtrack. One trailer pulled Nas' "Made You Look" while another lifts the remix of Miike Snow "Heart Is Full" featuring Run the Jewels. A photo of late Brooklyn great Biggie also works its way into the series, as seen in the third trailer below.

The Cameo

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Clan's Method Man makes a cameo as himself in the show given Coker's reference to the Wu (more on this later). In one of the show's trailers, the Hempstead, Long Island, native meets the "bulletproof black man." 

"Oh man, 'P.L.O. Style' was my joint back in the day," Cage tells him in the clip. "Sweet Christmas!" The two then dap and swap hoodies.

"Marvel has always had its finger on on hip-hop culture, and this right here is just taking it even further," Meth says in a behind-the-scenes video, which also hosts sound bites from rapper A$AP Ferg, Younge, Muhammad and Colter. "Brothers like me been waiting for it since I was 8 years old and now it's here and I'm ecstatic," he adds. 

The Director

Coker is a certified hip-hop head. VIBE roots aside, he recently revealed at Comic-Con in July that every episode would be named after a song from hip-hop duo Gang Starr, according to Variety. He also saluted the Wu-Tang Clan while describing the series as "the Wu Tang-ification of the Marvel universe."

He also explained the show's "hip-hop attitude" to Complex. "Here's the thing: when you say hip-hop attitude, I think people all of a sudden start bobbing their shoulders and they have one assumption what that is. I take a broader view. For example, I consider Quentin Tarantino a rock 'n' roll filmmaker. Martin Scorsese, his movies are in particular driven by his music experience—there's a certain pulse with popular music that pushes his narrative forward," he explained. "I wanted to be a hip-hop showrunner from the standpoint of having every single aspect of hip-hop influence a running undercurrent in terms of how we approach story and the feel of the series."


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