‘Luke Cage’ Season One was filled with colorful characters, like the bulletproof hero himself played by Mike Colter, as well as tough-as-nails detective Misty Knight, night nurse Claire Temple, conniving politician Mariah Dillard, ruthless crime boss
Cottonmouth er, Cornell Stokes, the even more ruthless Willis ‘Diamondback’ Stryker, and more. But there was one element of the series that could almost be considered an extra character– the music. More than most shows, music played an important part in ‘Luke Cage’, most obviously in the fact that a large chunk of the action took place at the club Harlem’s Paradise, owned by two of the show’s big heavies, Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodward) and her cousin Cornell Stokes a.k.a. Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali). Harlem’s Paradise hosted live performances by Raphael Saadiq, Faith Evans, blues legend Charles Bradley, rising star Jidenna, The Delphonics and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
But ‘Luke Cage”s musical roots run even deeper. The score is provided by Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Every episode of the first season was named after a song by the seminal rap group Gang Starr, while the episodes of Season Two will be named after tracks by Pete Rock and CL Smooth. And of course, there was what was probably the first season’s most hilarious scene, featuring Luke saving Method Man from a hold up with the hip hop giant then returning the favor. Method Man also contributed a song to the two volume ‘Luke Cage’ Season One soundtrack, which received a limited edition old school vinyl release.
With Mariah Dillard still in power at the end of Season One, expect Harlem’s Paradise to continue to play an important role in the series. In fact, expect even more! The first season performances were so fondly received that ‘Luke Cage’ creator and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker is doubling up on the live performances.
Evans will return for a second go-’round (her single ‘Mesmerized’ shot up 516% on iTunes after her season one appearance) and she will be joined by Joi & D-Nice, Gary Clark Jr., Esperanza Spalding, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Ghostface Killah, Stephen Marley, Jadakiss, KRS-One and Rakim. Rakim will appear in the season two finale, performing an original song written about the show’s star. Also listen up for songs by Nina Simone and Mobb Deep.
In this featurette, the show’s creators and musical contributors discuss the importance of music in the black community as a whole, but also in ‘Luke Cage’ in particular: