Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly: #364 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Curtis Mayfield - Superfly

So why is Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I’ve written well over 600 “entries” for this here best 1,000 albums ever project (this one right here is the 637th, but who’s… okay maybe I’m counting!), and each one turns out a little bit differently.

There are some albums where I really love the music, but I don’t have a deep reservoir of other things to express about it, really. And then there are albums like Super Fly where I have so many things to say that I don’t even know quite how to start.

So maybe I’ll just rely on my man Nice Guy Eddie* from Reservoir Dogs, who fired off the iconic line: all right, first things f—ing last.

In other words, we’ll start with the album and music itself first and then work… backwards from there.

Super Fly is the soundtrack to “…a 1972 American blaxploitation neo-noir crime drama film directed by Gordon Parks Jr. and starring Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, an African American cocaine dealer who is trying to quit the underworld drug business.”

Curtis Mayfield uses this movie to paint a musical canvas that blends R&B, funk, and soul in a way most impressive way. Super Fly is somehow a gritty and smooth album at the same time.  

“Pusherman” shows how deft and artful Mayfield can be: it’s light and funky and feels easy and sly and cool. And man oh man, Mayfield’s voice is incredible, as it is throughout the album.

“Freddie’s Dead” is far and away my favorite Curtis Mayfield track of all. It’s hard funk and soul that’s dark and catchy and beautiful and funky for days.

I discuss the legacy of “Freddie’s Dead” in the best 1,000 albums entry for Fishbone’s Truth & Soul (#734 of best 1,000 albums ever). Be sure to check that one out if only for the dynamite cover of “Freddie’s Dead.” And see more related to a story I was waiting to tell related to this song below.

“Junkie Chase” is a rollicking super-sounds-of-the-‘70s* instrumental number that gives you the vibe of every 1970s car chase and/or cops chasing perps scene you’ve ever watched, rolled into one.

* This is another unintended Reservoir Dogs reference. It turns out that this piece is drenched in Tarantino references somehow!

Which is kind of the aesthetic that the Beastie Boys’ music video for “Sabotage” satirically yet lovingly achieves too, I’d argue?

And speaking of the Beasties Boys, they of course sample the incredible funk hook of “Superfly” (no space between the “super” and “fly” on the song versus for the album title for some reason!) on the insanely great “Egg Man,” off of Paul’s Boutique.

Personal stuff that’s somehow related to Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly

“Freddie’s Dead” brings me back to my early days living in Berkeley, California after having lived for most of my life in New York up until that point.

Not only were my old pal and housemate Adam and I really into Fishbone’s Truth & Soul around that time – which includes a dynamite cover of “Freddie’s Dead – but the Curtis Mayfield original also connects to my time as a sketch writer for a San Francisco comedy troupe called the Jonny Cats (yes, like the kitty litter!).

One lengthy sketch was a parody of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which we turned into Jackie White… it was a whole thing. Anyway, on top of being the troupe’s sole writer, I also worked the sound board, the lights, and did voiceovers for the live performances. And so it was really fun to drop a little Superfly on the audience during shows.

As it happens, at our place in Berkeley we also happened to have a huge movie poster from Jackie Brown on our living room wall, and we were really into the movie’s soundtrack. One song that I find to be stunning to this day is “Street Life,” by Randy Crawford.

And Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” is also pretty great.

Some stats & info about Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? R&B, Soul, Funk, Film Soundtracks
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #76
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Super Fly released? 1972
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #364 out of 1,000

Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

We can deal with rockets and dreams, but reality, what does it mean?

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.