With all the omnipresent hype surrounding Marvel’s latest blockbuster Black Panther the film’s soundtrack was equally as anticipated. There was a large demand for the album since it was revealed that Grammy award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar would be producing it. The soundtrack managed to produce hits while also tackling sensitive subjects that were explored in the Black Panther movie.
Black Panther: The Album was released Feb. 9, 2018 and has become number one on the Billboard 200. The album was executive produced by Lamar and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, who is the owner of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), the record label that released the album.
Kendrick Lamar is featured on most of the songs, but his label mates SZA, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock also make appearances on songs. The 14-track album also has features from well-known artists such as Future, The Weeknd, Travis Scott and Khalid and features from lesser known artists such as Mozzy, Babes Wudomo, and Sjava.
The album was preceded by its three hit singles “All the Stars” by Lamar and SZA, “King’s Dead” by Lamar, Jay Rock, Future and James Blake, and “Pray for Me” by The Weeknd and Lamar. “All the Stars” is a pop anthem that includes gentle verses delivered by Lamar and sweet vocals from SZA. “King’s Dead” is a catchy hip-hop tune that provides fiery verses from the rappers featured on the song. In “Pray for Me,” The Weeknd provides soul filled vocals while Lamar raps energetically over the beat.
These three hit songs are catchy while discussing sensitive subjects such as love, dealing with fame and failure. Even though these three songs were the lead singles, there are many other gems within this album.
In the first song, “Black Panther,” Lamar embodies the titular character and discusses what it means to be a king and sensitive subjects that are not commonly discussed in Disney productions. “King of the shooters, looters, boosters, and ghettos poppin, King of the past, present, future, my ancestors watchin,” he raps in a monotone voice. The song features a gentle piano in the beginning and transitions into a more electronic beat as the song progresses and the lyrics become more difficult.
Lamar lends the spotlight to lesser known South African rappers and singers. The song “Redemption” features a groovy chorus from singer Zacari and eccentric verses from South African artist Babes Wodumo. The song heavily borrows from the South African club beat called gqom.
The soundtrack does not only feature upbeat hip-hop and rap songs, it also has slow ballads. One standout ballad from the album comes from English singer and songwriter Jorja Smith with her song “I Am.” In the song, Smith provides an emotion-filled vocal performance discussing subjects such as freedom. “When you know what you got, sacrifice ain’t that hard, feel like dependin’ on me, sometimes we ain’t meant to be free,” she sings.
Black Panther: The Album is a diverse album that provides songs that everyone will enjoy. The album provides context for the plot and the characters of the film without ruining the movie. Even if the album was not connected to one of the most anticipated movies in 2018, it would still be a solid piece of work that has something for everyone.