It’s no secret that “Black Panther” is currently flaming up the box office. I am full of joy and Wakandan pride of a film where people of color are the majority. This film makes such an amazing statement to Hollywood that we belong here and our cinematic art holds just as much artistic and monetary value as anyone else’s. It’s been 3 weeks and the movie has already broken records. It is projected to soon pass the 1 billion dollar mark.
But what’s a movie without an amazing soundtrack? Unfortunately, we now live in a time where soundtracks do not mean as much as they once did – especially within black cinema.
There was a time where soundtracks from films such as: “Boyz n the Hood,” “Soul Food,” “Friday,” “Bad Boys II” and the like would be just as popular as stand-alone albums – and we would play them just as much. But in a new technological world where music (especially Hip-Hop) is much more prolific, it’s hard to find artists who now craft music for a particular film. It’s rare to see soundtracks connected to blockbuster films allowing them to climb their respective charts simultaneously. This is why “Black Panther The Album” is such a fresh breath of air for music lovers.
Here are 4 reasons why I love this soundtrack.
Curation by Kendrick Lamar and Anthony Tiffith
I believe it was important for people of color to have a credible person represent the struggle well through music. I can’t think of anyone better than Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment.
I say this not just because of Lamar’s resume and his understanding of issues of justice and revolution; Kendrick knows music. He is one of the most creative artists we have seen in the genre in a long time. He blends his unique Compton roots with a polished, quaint, and old-fashioned black sound/feel. Not only is he nasty with the bars, but he and Anthony Tiffith also understand song construction, melody, and arrangement. Let’s not forget that SZA (featured on “All The Stars” and who also had a breakout debut album “Ctrl”) is a TDE artist.
Lamar and Tiffith have the ears to make, find, and curate great music.
This duo was exceptional in highlighting great musical talent that is not widely known. Few things make me happier than stumbling upon new or unsung artists who have yet to reach the masses.
Fresh new artists like Khalid, California’s own Zacari (featured on Lamar’s “Damn”), and Babes Wodumo, Sjava, and Saudi bring a new sound and fresh style to many who may have never heard them. We also can’t forget the raw sound of SOB X ROE whom you may be unfamiliar with if you’re not acquainted “The Bay.”
The ability to blend a project of rising stars with the more widely known and seasoned artists such as Future, 2 Chainz, and Travis Scott is a huge feat and a great treat for listeners.
African Influence and Sound
The recruitment of African artists is one of the aspects that makes this album remarkable. Earlier I mentioned Babes Wadumo, Sjava, and Saudi. They are all South African as well as Yugen Blakrock who features on “Opps” with Vince Staples.
The sound of the album is afro-centric with blends of Hip-Hop, R&B, and Afrobeats. The sounds represent our creations and influence across the diaspora. I also love how there are various artists singing in their native tongue. On the song “X,” Saudi intermittently raps in his native Zulu language whiles Babes Wadumo does the same on “Redemption” (my favorite track on the album). The African influence of the album not only gives it a cultural feel but also fits perfectly into the culture of Wakanda.
You may notice some music on the album is actually not in the film. I think this was intentional and it’s genius. This artistic choice gives the album its own identity while complimenting the film, however, both empower one another. They tell the same story but in two dynamic ways.
The duality of the album, highlighted by the harder songs associated with “I am Killmonger” and “All Hail Killmonger” and the hopeful track “I am T’Challa,” give us a struggle of ideology and emotion that’s present with the film’s main characters. Two characters, two ideologies, and a blend of emotion all hailing from the same beautiful Wakanda. There is hope and conflict on the album just like there is hope and conflict within the film. This is the album’s genius.
The album’s artists, sound, style, and cultural relevance speak to how multi-layered the film and artistic musical expression are. Telling a powerful story, this album provides a stunning representation of our cultures that have long been overdue. There’s hope, anger, dignity, and complexity wrapped up in both mediums that I would encourage you all to explore.
The Black Panther album is available on all music streaming platforms and wherever music is sold.