Marvel’s long-awaited superhero film, “Black Panther” made its debut this week. Chock full of commendable performances and gorgeous cinematics, it featured a soundtrack curated by Grammy-award winning artist, Kendrick Lamar.
Upon its initial debut earlier this February, the soundtrack gave audiences an auditory preview of the movie’s themes and overall mood. The album featured bold singles with top rap and R&B artists such as SZA in “All the Stars,” Jorja Smith in “I Am” and “Opps” with Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok.
The soundtrack begins with a song titled “Black Panther” which introduces the film’s conflict between activism and preserving one’s way of life. Lamar raps, “King of the shooters, looters, boosters and ghetto’s poppin’ / King of past, present, future/ My ancestors watchin.'”
This is followed by one of the album’s most prominent singles, “All the Stars”, which landed a spot on the Billboard’s Hot 100. Arguably, “All the Stars” sounds like an echo of the song “Love.” from Lamar’s 2017 album, “Damn.”
The song “X” featuring Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, and a lesser-known South African rapper known as ‘Saudi’ might as well be an anthem for the film. It’s all about preparing to fight and stand up to one’s enemies. “Are you on teny yet? I live on ten, But are you on ten yet?” Lamar sings in the main hook.
Another lesser-known artist, ‘SOB x RBE’ is featured on the track “Paramedic!” This song adds a touch of popular trap to the album. The flow of the verses, especially by rappers ‘Slimmy B’ and ‘DaBoii’ are similar to Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley whose first album made a powerful debut last spring.
Interestingly, some of the strongest songs on the “Black Panther” soundtrack feature lesser-known artists, as seen with Saudi on “X” and SOB x RBE on “Paramedic!” Though the tracks with more mainstream rappers, such as Anderson . Paak and Travis Scott have merit, but overall they do not leave a strong impression.
Thus said, the single “King’s Dead” featuring Jay Rock, Future and James Blake is one of the soundtrack’s fiercest songs. In the hook, Lamar sings “Miss me with that bullshit/You’re not a gang member you’s a tourist,” which works perfectly with the film’s themes of identity, home and belonging.
An unintentional consequence of his feature on the song, rapper Future began a wave of memes on Twitter because of his line “La di da di da, slob on me knob.”
“Black Panther” is set in the fictional East African nation of Wakanda, which makes the soundtrack an opportunity to include the popular Afrobeats style sound that has slowly been making its way into mainstream music. A hint of this is heard on the track “Redemption” with Zacari and South African singer Babes Wodumo.
Towards the end of the album, “Seasons” is a slow testament to the power of the African diaspora. South African rapper Sjava raps the entirety of his verse in Zulu, while rapper Mozzy speaks on his personal struggles: “Trapped in the system, traffickin’ drugs/ Modern-day slavery, African thugs/ We go to war for this African blood.”
Overall, the “Black Panther” soundtrack has some solid tracks that are worth giving a listen. Though it works well in combination with the movie, it also holds up as a stand-alone album. “Black Panther: The Album” is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal and can be bought in stores now.