Written by LaZedrick Blackshire | @blusatire
First let me say, upon finding out that there would be an accompanying album To the movie Black Panther along with a score…my anticipation for the film increased even more than before. There have been some great soundtracks for black movies, but pairing one of the biggest hip-hop artists presently with the most anticipated black movie in years may have struck gold, or in this case vibranium.
Kendrick Lamar and company embarks many on their first trip to Wakanda with this soundtrack. Throughout the album, you can hear the African inspiration in the tracks. Working along with Ludwig Goransson who himself said he wanted to use Black Panther as a personal journey, displaying African roots and depicting black excellence. Kendrick incorporated black artists from all over to further drive this home. With features from artist like SZA, Khalid, Travis Scott, Future, 2 Chainz and other popular American artists, to even British artists like Jorja Smith. However, the album wouldn’t be quite Wakandian, without African artists being heavily represented. Babes Wodumo, Sjava, Saudi, and Yugen Blakrok. I like this diversity of sounds because this is different from the norm. All these different backgrounds still seem to fit together due to excellent production. Mostly produced by Soundwave, with some co-production from Cubeatz, Ludwig Goransson and Mike-Will-Made-It, and Kendrick Lamar himself. They did an amazing job of mixing hip-hop, R&B, African instruments and afrobeat together.
What I feel is the biggest strength of the album, is how socially conscious it is and how well it ties into the movie. Hearing this before watching the movie, it already illustrates the story of what Ryan Coogler was aiming to depict. The opening track, “Black Panther” poses many questions to society as well as self-reflection of a king. It also sounds as if his opposition is questioning his motives as well; nonetheless, he informs all who listens that “I am T’Challa”. Songs Like “All the Stars” with SZA and “I Am” with Jorja Smith displays a parallel to the elite warriors of women in Black Panther called the Dora Miljae perfectly representing “Black Girl Magic”.
“X” is a parallel to the environment T’Challa comes back to with others challenging his rightful claim to the throne. “Opps” speaks on disdain from crooked cops and violence against our people, and not wanting to see us live and prosper. “Paramedics” and “King’s Dead”, is clearly from the perspective of Killmonger. The beat and lyrics reflect his by any means attitude. “Bloody Waters” is a look at the man behind the mask and how family/outside people influenced T’Challa and even Killmonger as they are destined to clash. This is also reflected in “Seasons” while the track also investigates the history of struggle, slavery, and injustices in Africa and America. Through the somber, there is a light of hope as the song expresses how there is time to change for the betterment of our people. At the end of “Seasons”, Kendrick says “I am, T’Challa, I am Killmonger. One world, one God, one family., celebration’. The album ends with Kendrick and the Weekend’s “Pray For Me” which speaks of responsibility, sacrifice, redemption and doing the things you have to do even if you have opposition or no support.
For an album inspired by Black Panther, I feel it did its job taking me to Wakanda musically, and helping me visualize the conflict, beauty, love, pride, and strength of its people. It’s a socially conscious album and a fun one. Many people may have mixed feelings about it, but I for one find it as a solid project with something for everyone. Long Live T’Challa.