“Iron Fist,” Marvel’s latest Netflix show, is clearly (and fittingly) influenced by some classic martial arts cinema. What was not expected, however, is the series' dope Hip-Hop soundtrack. Much like “Luke Cage” before it, the music played a part in Danny Rand's story, instead of just being the score. So, below we will break down what music was used, how it played into the plot and what it tells us about Danny’s timeline.
The story goes that Danny and his parents are on their way to Rand Oil & Chemicals’ Chinese facilities when their private jet loses control over the Himalayas and plummets into the snowy peaks. His father and mother die in the crash, but Danny miraculously survives. The showrunners make it very evident that his iPod also endures the crash, repeatedly showing it sitting in the snow in flashbacks (they must have dropped it into a bowl of uncooked rice pretty quickly). The iPod is important, because it is the only connection young Rand has to the world he leaves behind when he's taken into K’un Lun. And, since it is stated that he has been gone for 15 years, nothing on the device should be have been released any later than 2002.
The first episode starts with Danny bumping Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” from their 2000 album “Stankonia” as he attempts to enter the Rand Enterprises building. Pre-2002? Check. We also find Danny listening to music each time he goes to lay low in the park. When he first meets Big Al, he is listening to Camp Lo’s “Krystal Karrington” from their 1997 album “Uptown Saturday Night.” The math works here as well. The final rap song in this episode is played when Danny is back at the park and Big Al brings him some food. We catch just a brief snippet of Killah Preist’s “Heat of the Moment” from his 2001 album “Priesthood.” This one just slides under the bar, but makes the cut. We don’t hear anything else from his iPod past this episode. However, the device does come up again later in the series, and we will cover the significance a little later.
Other than the park, the only other location in the show where music is played regularly is Colleen’s dojo. She has a boombox that seems to be loaded with Hip-Hop hits from the previous decade. In Episode 3 Danny is practicing in the Chikara Dojo to The Cool Kids’ “Black Mags” from their 2008 album “The Bake Sale.” In Episode 4, Colleen is pumping Vince Staples’ “Hang N’ Bang” from “Summetime ’06” (2015) as she beats her Wing Chun wooden dummy. When we see Colleen join Danny for a training session in Episode 12, Anderson .paak’s “Come Down” (from last year’s Grammy-nominated “Malibu”) is the theme.
Although the initial cage match Colleen fights in isn’t accompanied by a thumping tune, when she strides into the illegal fighting venue for the second time (in Episode 4), Run the Jewels’ “Blockbuster Night” (2014) is blaring out of the speakers. This marks yet another collaboration between Marvel and the rap group. Interpretations of the Run the Jewels logo were featured on multiple variant covers at the top of 2015, then in 2016 RTJ was the first group Marvel picked to be featured in the publisher's “Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet” video series. In short, this may be the first ever bromance between a comic publisher and a Hip-Hop group.
Episode 8 is where a little detective work comes into play; Claire checks out Danny’s iPod on their way to China, reading off Blackalicious, BDP and Big Pun. Danny remarks that he has had it since he was ten years old. Now, considering that earlier in the show he had mentioned the crash occurred when he was ten as well, we can posit he had the device for less than a year when the jet went down. With this info, we tried to figure out what albums by those artists he likely had on his cherished MP3 player.
Blackalicious released their major label debut “Nia” in 1999, and the follow-up “Blazing Arrow” in 2002. So, either or both of those albums could be on there. Big Pun’s only two albums also came out before 2002: “Capital Punishment” (1998) and “Yeeeeah Baby” (2000). So, same deal. As for Boogie Down Productions, their last album was “Sex and Violence” in 1992. That would be the year Danny was born, which either means he was a little crate digger, or BDP was in the script but they meant KRS-One. Why does that make sense, you may ask? KRS was a founding member and the driving force behind BDP, and he had his two biggest albums “I Got Next” (1997) and “The Sneak Attack” (2001) in the same era as the other albums we've talked about so far. The earliest song we are sure was on the iPod was the Camp Lo track from ’97 in Episode 1.
This brings us to the one song we can’t put our finger on. In Episode 13, when Danny and Colleen meet in the park, there is a song playing in the background. Judging by the beat and cadence of the emcee, it sounds like Wu-Tang…very possibly RZA (who directed Episode 6). If you have figured it out, let us know in the comments!