Black Panther soundtrack review

 Photo by Joe Pugliese

Photo by Joe Pugliese

The anticipation for the release of Black Panther is filling up my soul.  Despite my people showing their exceptionally yet excessive support through numerous threads, think-pieces, and alleged rules (i say this loosely) towards watching the movie, My excitement for Black Panther hasn’t been altered and has withstood the test of goofy behavior all around.

At first I didn’t know what was to become of the Black Panther soundtrack.  It was almost about an afterthought of mines. That is until I heard the first single, “All the Stars” from the two top heavyweights of TDE, Kendrick Lamar and SZA. Next up sometime after was the second single “King’s Dead,” with Kendrick, Jay Rock, & Future. After that release, it had me wondering if whether or not TDE was about to bless us with a secret Black Hippy project that was disguised as the Black Panther soundtrack.  Not only was King’s Dead the second single, but is also serving as the first single off Jay Rock’s next upcoming Album. Personally I think that was a smart marketing move from TDE, but that’s neither here nor there.  As soon as the news dropped that Kendrick and Top Dawg were going to be the curators for the soundtrack, the ideas of what’s to come for the soundtrack started clicking.

It was dope to me seeing a possible new trend that was ahead of artist curating movie soundtracks. Not too long after the announcement for Black Panther, more news was presented that rapper Future was going to be curator the Super Fly soundtrack. I’m very interested to see how this is going to be pulled off, especially since also he’s due for another Solo project release.  It’s been awhile since we’ve came across curated movie soundtracks. There have been amazing curated movie soundtracks that were created for us such as original 1989 Batman, Purple Rain, The Bodyguard, American Gangsta, Waiting to Exhale, 8 Mile, & Get or Die Tryin. Probably the most notable comparison to Kendrick and Black Panther was with Prince and the original Batman soundtrack . The story was that director Tim Burton was a fan of Prince and Warner Bros wanted Prince to make a contribution to the soundtrack. After watching about half-hour of the film, he was inspired enough to create a 10 track project. Like with Prince, Black Panther director Ryan Cooger was a fan of Kendrick’s music.

At first, Kendrick was going to only contribute a few songs but then after watching a portion of the film, he was inspired to create the soundtrack. The main thing I love so much about TDE is their process on creating music. Even after coming off two of the most successfully commercial albums, DAMN and CTRL, you can never really know what direction they’re going to take with the music. They set their own trends and follow their own waves. Never had to really follow certain Pop culture blueprints in order to be successful. They always stay true to themselves and the music they create. So I just knew they’re really going to come with it for Black Panther.

After further listening and living with the soundtrack, i realized this isn’t wasn’t a hidden Black Hippy album. It turns out that it was actually disguised somewhat as Kendrick Lamar’s playlist. It’s like its a Kendrick album but its also not a Kendrick album if you’re understanding what I’m saying. Minus the actual records credited to Kendrick such as Black Panther, All the Stars, King’s Dead, & Big Shot, you can hear and feel his presence all throughout the album. You’ll hear him in the background vocals on songs like I Am, on the hook, or with a bridge such as Opps, Paramedic, Redemption, etc. What made Kendrick’s appearance on the soundtrack the most unique was not only by making us hear and feel his presence on the album, but he also left available room for the newer artists like  Mozzy, SOB x RBE, Jorja Smith, & Saudi to shine on their. He went as far as to give all of their credit on the track-list.

I love when big powerhouses like TDE are still out here recognizing the up and coming talent and help give them a high platform to help them perform their music.  Mozzy and SOB x RBE are really about to make some big noise this year because of this big look given Kendrick. Them guys deserve it so much. I was just blown away by the record,  Paramedic, which is my number one favorite standout record off the soundtrack. Not only did I love that good ole New school West Coast shit talking music  but it was also the first time in forever to hear Kendrick on a West Coast style beat. The last time I heard him on a west coast sounding record was during the To Pimp a Butterfly Era. Also I was blown away listening to another stand out, “I am’ with Jorja Smith. Im going to check out more of her music so I can play catch up. The first time I heard her was through Drake’s playlist project, More Life.

The TDE crew all did their thing per usual throughout the album. X is another banger for me that you know you cant wait to hear at one of these upcoming festivals this summer. I just get that concert feeling for it. Its felt great to hear from our boy Schoolboy Q. He sounded refreshed and cocky as ever. When he said “Nigga, December been good to me/ Not even Kendrick could humble me,” I really felt that in my spirit. It felt like he as giving us a taste of whats to come for his next album coming out this year with his raps and sounds. But Q and Saudi’s raps were no match for our favorite rapper 2 Chainz as he came in like a thief in the night and stole the entire show. Khalid & Swae Lee was an unexpected combo i didn’t see coming with The Ways but both of them boys did their thing.

At first when I heard Big Shot with Kendrick & Travis, I didn’t know what to think about it since he was partially using the beginning of his New Freezer verse as the hook. But as time went on, that record grew into one of my favorites. Kendrick & Travis are an odd combo but the production by Cardo Got Wangs helped create their element.  I don’t know which Collaborative EP I would want between Kendrick & Travis or Kendrick & Weekend because so far when Kendrick has worked with either of these guys their 2 for 2.

For the most part, I enjoyed all of the album. The only song I didn’t entirely like was Opps with Vince Staples. Bloody Waters was another stand out record from TDE’s own Ab Soul, Anderson Paak & James Blake. Soul sound refreshed and hungry as ever on the beat. Paak’s presence was missed. We havent heard from him in so long. His also has a new album coming  sometime year thats going to include production from Dr Dre. The deeper that you dive into the Black Panther soundtrack, the clearer the theme becomes to the listener.

At the start of the soundtrack with the self titled track Black Panther, Kendrick is rapping from the Perspective of T’Challa , the protagonist of the movie. Midway through the soundtrack when we get to  Paramedic SOB x RBE, Kendrick the says in the beginning “I am Killmonger, who is the antagonist of the movie.  Then on  King’s Dead, Kendrick is then rapping  on the 2nd half of the song from the perspective Killmonger. Kendrick then present a duality at the end of Seasons with Mozzy, Sjava, & Reason where he says, “I am T'Challa/ I am Killmonger/ One world, one God, one family / Celebration.” According to the notations on Rap Genius, what was defined by that statement was that both in unity T’Challa & Killmonger are both hero and villain and that it served as a reminder that when it’s all said and done, people must remain united as a family and rise above conflict both internally and externally. Look here man, even after typing that last sentence it gives me the chills. I cannot wait to see this movie and see how which songs will not be used but also will be transitioned in the movie.

Black Panther soundtrack serves as a successful project for TDE. What makes the album sound so great is the production. The production doesn’t entirely sound based out of Africa or sounds futuristic. It gives us visual of Wakanda in the present world. I loved so much that the records created sounded nothing like Kendrick’s last studio album, DAMN. It’s also a reflection of the artist point of view of the world while using the soundtrack as a means to explain that view. Im excited to see the movie and see which songs are going to get placement in the actual movie. There’s just some songs that I can already see fitting certain scenes throughout the movie. By the time this feature releases, Black Panther will have already been released and on its own way to break all kinds of records.