Reviews | Written by Nick Spacek 05/11/2020



The Netflix documentary L.A. Originals documents the simultaneous rise of photographer Estevan Oriol and tattoo artist Mister Cartoon from 1992 onward, and their contributions to the world of hip-hop and pop culture at large. While viewers might not have known their names, they certainly knew Cartoon's logo for multi-platinum rappers Cypress Hill or Oriol's iconic photos of everyone from Snoop Dogg to the Beastie Boys.

The soundtrack for the documentary leans heavily into the era when the pair initially met. While L.A. Originals does feature ‘newer’ songs like Terror Squad's Lean Back from 2004 and 50 Cent's 2005 track Disco Inferno, the vast majority of these cuts all come from the early '90s, when Oriol and Cartoon were introduced at a party. There are classic tracks like Snoop Dogg's Gin & Juice, Erik B. & Rakim's Juice (Know the Ledge), and Mobb Deep's Shook Ones (Part 1), to name but a few, and it really helps to ground the documentary with a sense of temporal place.

Interestingly enough, while you'd think the inclusion of a less-directly confrontational party cut like Young MC's Bust A Move would stick out like a sore thumb, it gives the L.A. Originals soundtrack a chance to ease back while still having fun. The soundtrack is also not just a collection of music used in the documentary itself, but also reflects a selection of artists photographed by Oriol or inked by Cartoon, giving the music a deeper layer than simply existing as a mixtape. However, as a mixtape, it's a pretty solid primer of 1991-93 era hip-hop.

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