It Wouldn’t Be a ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movie Without a Totally Tubular Rap Song

By  · Published on July 22nd, 2014

New Line Cinema

Rebooting a franchise can mean a lot of changes to a beloved film property, and that tends to inspire everything from angry Tweets to petitions and boycotts. Just recall all the complaints about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie at various stages of both rumor and actual production. Fans are wary of there being too many alterations to their favorite heroes in a half shell, and they weren’t having any of that alleged alien race nonsense.

But you know what would really have put pitchforks in their hands aimed at the throat of producer Michael Bay? The lack of a TMNT-centric rap song on the soundtrack. Fortunately, the upcoming movie does have one of those. We can all finally rest easy with this news.

The tune this time is titled “Shell Shocked” and it’s performed by Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and Ty Dolla $ign with material from Brian Tyler’s score for the film as the melody. You’ll be able to hear it during the end credits of the movie, but you can also download it now via iTunes. Reportedly everyone associated with the song is a huge TMNT fan, and that has nothing to do with publicity spin whatsoever, I’m sure. Wouldn’t want any fans criticizing the idea of a track in the movie being made by people just in it for the cash. After all, how would we otherwise know if one of the rappers wouldn’t have given a damn about the turtles originating from space?

Disappointment could come ‐ at least it has from me ‐ in the fact that “Shell Shocked” doesn’t sound enough like it’s a genuine plot song. Of course, Hollywood is likely wary of these sorts of classic soundtrack staples given how protective they are with plot details, and anyway the TMNT franchise hasn’t had a proper plot song since the first movie’s “Turtle Power.” At least it’s got more relevant references to the characters of the movie than Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” off the soundtrack for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

While the video is expected to drop next week, you can check out the song itself below followed by a nostalgic appreciation for the TMNT rap songs of the past.

The cream of the crop is, without contest, “Turtle Power” by Partners in Kryme. It’s so nice they used it twice, including it on the soundtrack for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. At age 13, I had much of it memorized, my favorite lyric being this brilliant, dated set up for mention of April O’Neal: “This is serious so give me a quarter. I was a witness, get me a reporter.” The phrase “the villain is chillin’” is also pretty sweet. But sadly the one-hit-wonders-in-kryme couldn’t get everything correct. They refer to Raphael as the leader of the group! As is necessary for a good TMNT rap song, this one makes allusion to another heroic team: The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Watch the video:

Before moving on from the original movie, we have to recognize Ya Kid K, the rapper from Technotronic and the side project Hi Tek 3. They’ve been a consistent part of TMNT soundtracks in their own right, enough that I’d love to hear her make a surprise appearance in a song in the new movie. None of their offerings to the Ninja Turtles have been written with the characters or their plots in mind, though I do like to think of the first film’s “Spin That Wheel (Turtles Get Real)” as being about a pizza pie rather than a record. At least Ya Kid K got to pump up the jam with the Turtles in the reworked version of its video, as you can see here:

Vanilla Ice may not have rhymed much about the Turtles or the synopsis of The Secret of the Ooze in “Ninja Rap,” but that’s okay because he was actually in the movie performing his token rap track. That might have been weird if he had a song detailing things about the characters that had just or hadn’t yet happened. Still, the song is confusing, sometimes about Turtle power and sometimes just about himself, never finding its focus. And compared to the great villain line from Partners in Kryme, here’s what Ice has up his sleeve: “Villians, you better run and hide. Because one day you might not slide.” The only reason people remember this one is that it’s by Vanilla Ice and that it has the easily familiar, repetitive chant of “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!”

The third movie was a disappointment for so many reasons, and the soundtrack is one of them. It’s much less of a hip-hop and house music showcase and mostly compiles familiar ’80s pop like “Tarzan Boy” (aka the Listerine jingle) and a cover of Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga.” Interestingly, the movie involves the Turtles going back in time, but you’d think the destination was 1985 given that those two songs as well as a ZZ Top number (“Can’t Stop Rockin’”) are all from that year. Then there’s a Technotronic song but it’s even less timely than the other Ya Kid K tracks put to the past TMNT records. Plus, as mentioned, “Turtle Power” makes a return appearance. But it does actually have an original TMNT-centric rap song. Not Definition of Sound’s “The Fighter,” which sounds like a TMNT3 plot song with its lyrics about time travel, but “Turtle Jam” by Psychedelic Dust featuring Loose Bruce. On top of a sampling of Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” there’s a lyric that I can’t ignore that compares the Turtles to the Marx Brothers (other comparisons are made to Frankie Lymon, Wilson Pickett and Robert De Niro). It’s almost enough to make me love this one more than “Turtle Power.” Sadly there’s no music video, but you can listen here:

The 2007 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated feature has a soundtrack mostly comprised of pop rock tunes. But the first entry on the record is from rap rock group Gym Class Heroes. Similar to the new single, it’s called “Shell Shock.” Unlike the new single, it doesn’t sound like it’s by fans of the franchise. The closest thing they have to referencing TMNT elements are the phrases “Splinter cell” and “we rockin’ sewer caps.” There’s more of an allusion to Back to the Future Part II than there is to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe the fact that none of the artists on the soundtrack could interact with guys in Ninja Turtle suits, either in the movie or for a music video, kept the interest in a proper TMNT-centric track low. Listen to “Shell Shock” here:

[h/t: Slashfilm]

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.