Thursday night’s premiere of The Land in Los Angeles brought out the film’s executive producer Nas, as well as writer and director Steven Caple Jr. and leading actors Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Moises Arias, Natalie Marinez Melvin Gregg and Ezri Walker.
The Land is Caple Jr.’s first motion picture and takes place in Cleveland’s inner city eastside neighborhood, following a group of skateboarders who become embroiled in a major drug deal. As the teenagers face the dangerous appeal of easy money with hopes of escaping the streets and skating professionally, the film keeps a realistic narrative handling the hard truths that sometimes come with financing one’s dreams in order to make them a reality.
It’s no surprise that the film’s intersection of hip-hop element was largely due to Nas’ contributions, which included also executive producing the soundtrack. The Land features music from the iconic emcee himself, Kanye West, French Montana, Jeremih and Pusha T, among others. Cast members Erykah Badu, Machine Gun Kelly and Ezzy all contributed as well, the latter of whom said during a Q&A that his two tracks on the soundtrack were recorded during downtime on set out of pure pleasure.
“[Hip-hop] is definitely portrayed a lot during the movie,” said lead actor Lendeborg Jr. who plays Cisco.
Lendeborg Jr. revealed to Billboard, prior to his pursuit of an acting career, he wanted to be professional skateboarder, enabling him to perform his own stunts throughout the film. He said, “We treat skateboarding how a kid would treat it, like a getaway from real life. The hip-hop aides in that same way because its music that the underground listens to.”
For Gregg, who plays Brent, working with the film’s musical stars proved a true highlight. Of Badu, he said, “She’s just, she’s like majestic. She’s like a person I’ve never met it’s like hypnotizing, it’s kind of indescribable.”
Gregg also talked to Billboard about rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who was on crutches while filming The Land. “Machine Gun Kelly was really cool. He came through, he had an infection in either his arm or his leg and he was on crutches, but he came out and he thugged it out. He did what he needed to do.”
The first single off of the soundtrack produced by Nas, “This Bitter Land,” was the rapper’s first collaboration with Badu. The track perfectly captures the premise of the film, playing on Dinah Washington’s “This Bittter Earth” from 1960, Badu sings, “This bitter land/ Does nothing for love/ This bitter land/ Brings pain from above.” As she sings it, the song feels a perfect statement on current affairs in America.
“It’s nothing new that’s been going on,” Nas told Billboard. “We made the music a little while ago, but what’s been going on has been going on too long. The music was just written about life.”
Nas said he was was enticed to join the film because of the raw, real narrative that Caple Jr. had in mind.
“We were just motivated by the film, the story,” said Nas. “What the story made us feel, we had to put the music together to fit that.”
The Land debuts in Los Angeles and New York Friday (July 29) and officially opens Aug. 4.
Listen to the soundtrack produced by Nas below: