Kendrick Lamar’s career is everything right now. He is, as The Guardian puts it: “in the midst of a creative streak so hot that being seen as his equal is the kind of thing other rappers brag about.” So of course fans of both the Marvel franchise and Kendrick Lamar were excited about the “Black Panther” movie soundtrack drop last Friday. The combination of the film’s record-breaking presale numbers and Kendrick’s aforementioned hot streak are what make this project so exciting. And while projects with this much pre-release publicity surrounding them have a knack for not living up to their hype, this soundtrack is not one of those projects.
K.Dot’s name being attached to this project gives it an air of unsurpassed and unprecedented quality. The album gives us the amazing lineup we anticipated, with heavy hitters like SZA, The Weeknd, Vince Staples, Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Anderson.Paak, Future, Travis Scott, and obviously Kung Fu Kenny, himself. However, Lamar surprised many when he included lesser-known up-and-comers, including international artists like vocalist Sjava, who sings her heart out in the traditional South African Zulu language, a nod to Black Panther’s roots in African culture. The soundtrack combines the best of Reggae, R&B, Electronic, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Rock-rooted guitar riffs, and various instrumentals within the realm of world music.
A few standout tracks are:
- “All the Stars” and “Pray for Me,” 2 star-studded tracks already getting plenty of radio time;
- “King’s Dead,” a choppy, jagged meshing of two different tracks into one with an interlude, headed by Future and Kendrick, respectively;
- “Redemption,” by Zacari and Babes Wodumo, an upbeat tribute to Afro-Latino beat and lyrical influence; “
- I Am,” a unique Rap/Rock minor-keyed dark masterpiece of vocal prowess delivered by Jorja Smith;
- “Big Shot,” on which Kung Fu Kenny and Travis collaborate flawlessly;
- “Bloody Waters” with Gospel, contemporary House/Electronic, and Hip-Hop seamlessly blending thanks to the efforts of Ab-Soul, Anderson.Paak, and James Blake;
- “Paramedic!” delivering nods to old-school Hip-Hop beat craftsmanship via SOB X RBE;
- “Seasons”a stunning raw, soulful R&B ballad, crafted with care by Mozzy, Sjava, and Reason.
Kendrick demonstrates, through the beautiful delivery of the “Black Panther” soundtrack, his own musical versatility and previously untapped potential in the realm of production. His curatorship of the unbelievable combination of diverse talent and artistically sophisticated compilation of this soundtrack is truly impressive. If any Kendrick fans weren’t already excited for the release of “Black Panther” on the 16th, this album has the potential to get them excited.
– Courtney Quigley