Black Panther was a mixture of cultural ingenuity and Marvel brilliance. And Black Panther The Album acted as the vehicle that transposed those elements into the film.
The album was unequivocally an ideal marriage of a director with a vision and an MC who painted the film musically while capturing the innovated nature of Wakanda.
The soundtrack was created behind the brain trust of Kendrick Lamar, TDE CEO Anthony “Top Dawg Tiffih” and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. The album is comprised of 14 songs and 12 features. There’s a cohesive blend of R&B and hip-hop, spearheaded by the likes of “The Weekend” singer SZA, ScHoolBoy Q, Jay Rock, and Lamar, who are all members of the TDE record label.
The album begins with the song “Black Panther.” In this song, you hear African drums followed in sequence by a climatic audible sound that is halted abruptly as it reaches its climax with the word, “Wait” by Lamar. Each song chronicles themes of the film and this song is about the Black Panther, T’Challa as it transitions into the soul of Kendrick Lamar.
There’s a rollercoaster feel to the overall nature of the soundtrack. “Black Panther,” “X,” “Opps,” “Paramedic!,” “King’s Dead,” and “Big Shot” are all bangers, meaning that you’ll more than likely be nodding your head and blasting out your speakers to them. In contrast, “All The Stars”, “The Ways”, “I Am” and “Pray For Me” channel the R&B side of the soundtrack.
“Big Shot” was written by Lamar and Jacques Webster and it has an African meets modern hip-hop feel to it. The track commands the spirit and essence of Wakanda. There’s a man in the beginning who says “Wakanda … welcome” and African screams follow. The song gives off a cultural theme and vibe to it—as if you were visiting Wakanda.
“King’s Dead” is a song that acts as a transition in the story. This track has a variance of pounding bass and features artists like Future, Jay Rock, James Blake and Lamar, who take their turns ripping their own verses. Lamar brings the listener back to the thread of the story with the lyric, “Not your message, not your freedom, not your people, not your neighbor, not your baby, not your equal, not the title y’all want me under … (All hail King Killmonger).” This song displays the part of the story where Killmonger, T'Challa's nemesis, takes over the throne.
The last song on the album is “Pray For Me.” This song is an upbeat transition out of the ebbs and flows that the soundtrack produces consistently. The message goes from sacrifice to one's independent choice. “Just in case my faith goes, I live by my own law.” This song is another example of Kendrick Lamar mirroring the conflict and persona of the film’s characters through himself.
Overall, Kendrick Lamar did a great job of merging elements of South African pop style, R&B and hip-hop from all over the globe. The album is a microcosm of Black Panther's genius cinematically.
'Black Panther' album captures the films essence musically9
'Black Panther' album captures the films essence musically