In the pantheon of film soundtracks, Office Space will not be mentioned among the greats, but discovering it while thumbing through someone’s CD collection–or I guess I should say, when browsing someone’s MP3 files on their desktop–will create a small chuckle and a nod of approval from a handful of people.
It is well known that Mike Judge (writer/director) put up an almost daily fight with 20th Century Fox to create Office Space in his own vision. Fox not only battled him on plotlines, but even down to the last details of the film including the trailer, movie poster, tag line, and soundtrack. Judge only won the fight on the latter.
In fairness to Fox, a shirt-and-tie, office comedy doesn’t seem fit for a gangsta rap soundtrack, but for anyone who has seen the film, you know that it works perfectly. And let’s face it, gangsta rap music sold boatloads in the ’90s, because a whole bunch of white people–just like the ones in Office Space–were buying it.
From its trailer alone, you’d never know that Office Space was a cleverly crafted dark-comedy. You’d also think the soundtrack would be littered with late ’90s MTV staples, like the song actually used in the trailer, Fat Boy Slim’s, “Rockafeller Skank“. After watching Office Space though–as many did when it hit video stores–you quickly realized that it wasn’t a teen-based comedy fueled by cheap sex jokes and a soundtrack featuring songs from Blink 182, Mandy Moore, BBMak, or the trendy-at-the-time, Fat Boy Slim tune mentioned above. Instead, the film primarily featured music from Ice Cube and The Geto Boys.
Office Space features 12 songs on its soundtrack and the ones that shine brightest are the gangsta rap numbers (which Fox finally approved for the soundtrack after a positive focus group survey). Scarface’s “No Tears” was brilliantly used during the film’s opening credits when Michael Bolton (David Herman) makes his morning commute to work. Rhyming line for line he embraces his inner thug until a dark-skinned man selling flowers on the side of the road approaches his vehicle. He breaks from his in-car karaoke to lock his driver’s side door. Hilarious–and what a commentary on the people who listen to gangsta rap music.
Ice Cube’s “Down For Whatever” is used as a Mission Impossible-like theme when Michael, Peter (Ron Livingston), and Samir (Ajay Naidu) exchange the virus-filled computer disc that’s going to drain money from their company’s corporate account.
“Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” is the song for Peter’s victory montage, after approval is heaped on him from a duo of consultants hired by Initech.
The soundtrack’s crowning achievement though is unarguably The Geto Boys’ “Still.” Anytime I hear this song, I think of Michel, Peter, and Samir taking a baseball bat (and open fists) to a fax machine. Not only have I worked at places before where I dreamt of doing this very thing, but once again, Judge makes another great commentary on gangsta rap music. Just cause office workers from middle America wouldn’t step foot in the hood, doesn’t mean they’re not empowered by the music. Smashing a fax machine to pieces may feel just as good–holla—as puttin’ a hole in someone’s head, the size of a half-a-dolla.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to this soundtrack for introducing me to the sounds of Perez Prado, the Cuban bandleader who is known as “King of the Mambo.” I have since dipped into his back catalog and become a big fan.
The rest of the songs on the Office Space soundtrack aren’t as memorable as the ones listed above. Unless you’re obsessed with the film you might be hard pressed to match a song with its respective scene. Kool Keith’s “Get Off My Elevator” is an excellent choice for the album, but do you know where the song appears in the movie?
Answer: It’s playing on the car’s stereo while Peter and Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) argue about her “fucking Lumbergh”–yes, I guess I’m obsessed too.
After Office Space gained cult status, Mike Judge just might have closed the door to his office, propped his feet on the desk, and blasted Peter’s victory song. Not only did his gansta-rap-meets-mambo soundtrack work, but his film based on the trails and tribulations of office life spawned a couple of well-known comedy series and a whole new genre of television commercial humor. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta!
Last month, many of the cast members of Office Space met in Austin, TX (where the film was shot) to celebrate its 10-year Anniversary.