Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated contribution to Marvel’s Black Panther movie dropped Friday. I’m sharing my thoughts and music review of the Black Panther Soundtrack.
Music Review of Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther Soundtrack
Right now, I am sitting before my Harman Kardon speakers, and a mega baptismal wave of super crispy sound is washing over me…
Although there may not be a remedy for what I am feeling in regards to my out of proportion desire to see the forthcoming Black Panther movie next weekend, listening to the soundtrack helps. Right now I can’t shake this all-consuming and frantic obsession to see T’Challa and the rest of the multitalented cast of characters on the big screen. Next week it will happen, but until then I got the music. Tat, tells me the Black Panther movie is beyond incredibly good. And she should know because she got the opportunity to be ferried westward to attend the Black Panther World Premiere a few weeks ago and she came back even more excited about the movie than before she left. SIGH! Being married to a constantly on the go public figure can be super-duper rough! But I’ll make it! Maybe.
But I digress, back to the Black Panther music! The Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired By isn’t just another soundtrack, let me remind you it is the soundtrack to perhaps the biggest and most anticipated action film of the year! And if the actual Black Panther movie is as good as the soundtrack then I am almost scared to watch it! Here is a soundtrack which isn’t gimmicky, pretentious or any other plasticky vehicle of hollow songs thrown together just to make a fast buck. The soundtrack is intentional in a fun, introspective, unapologetically black, and universal way, and it speaks in a very particular and specific African tonality, as it should.
This is a body of songs collected like long-awaited rainwater in a cistern after a storm, and it nourishes the African diaspora plenty! Basically, my ears 100% approved.
01. Black Panther (Kendrick Lamar)
02. All The Stars (Kendrick Lamar, SZA)
03. X (2 Chainz, ScHoolboy Q, Saudi)
04. The Way (Khalid, Swae Lee)
05. Opps (Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok)
06. I Am (Jorja Smith)
07. Paramedic! (SOB x RBE, DaBoii)
08. Bloody Waters (Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak, James Blake)
09. King’s Dead (Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake)
10. Redemption Interlude (Zacari)
11. Redemption (Zacari, Babes Wodumo)
12. Seasons (Jabulani Hadebe, Mozzy, Reason)
13. Big Shot (Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott)
14. Pray For Me (The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar)
Multi Grammy-award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar helms a considerable number of tracks on this release, and it is safe to say he sets the tempo and overall thematic pulse with a deliberate agitation, this is an intense vocal, and beautiful Black Power fist raised upward to the heavens.
Right out of the blocks the opening track 1. Black Panther is all up in your face with…
King of my city, king of my country, king of my homeland
King of the filthy, king of the fallen, we living again
King of the shooters, looters, boosters, and ghetto poppin’
King of the past, present, future, my ancestors’ watchin’
King of the culture, king of the soldiers, king of the bloodshed
King of the wisdom, king of the ocean, king of the respect
King of the optimistics and dreamers that go and get it
King of the winners, district, and geniuses with conviction
King of the fighters, king of the fathers, king of the belated
King of the answer, king of problem, king of the answers, king of the forsaken
King of the empathy, you resent me, king of remorse
King of my enemies, may they father feed, I rejoice
King of the skyscrapers, dodging haters, broke religion
Nine faces, go against ’em, I erased them with precision
I embrace them with collision
Kings did it, king vision, Black Panther, King Kendrick…
All hail the king, I dropped a million tears
I know several responsibilities put me here
I don’t pedal backwards, but I live old-fashioned
And the lens that I am looking through
Won’t prescribe the right glasses, the masses are now free
Ashes I’m dumpin’ out, ’bout to speed ‘cross all seas
Sisters and brothers in unison, not because of me
Because we don’t clue with the opposition, we glue with peace
And I’m still ‘gon fuck up your organization if any beef
*What you stand for?
*Are you an activist? What are your city plans for?
Your native tongue contradiction’ what your body language say
Are you a king or you jokin’? Are you a king or you posin’?
Are you a king or you smokin’ bud rocks to keep you open?
Because they don’t cry, king don’t die
King don’t lie, king five heart, king get by, king don’t fall
Kingdom come, when I come, you know why?
King, king, king, king, I am T’Challa!
And it is with a great deal of precision and veracity that Kendrick delivers his lyrics, it’s enough to make you sit still and try to capture every word he’s dropping!
The is the song perhaps meant to shake us all out of a collective stupor, for all of the millions of black men, women, and children across the globe suffering at the hands of injustice and continued inequality, we hear you one an all. Oh, this gets deep and if your uncomfortable reading this maybe you’re part of the problem.
Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Panther movie the soundtrack makes you FEEL something, it stays with you and encourages something inside in which we need a constant reminder, there is work still to be done. But more than that listening to this album gets me on some nation-building ish!. Can I get a SELASSIE?!
“‘Cause maybe the night, and my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer; all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer…”
And in doing so perhaps what SZA is also saying is that our dreams, our black beautiful future is closer than we think we can continue to link arms with arms and believe and do for US! Once again Mr. Lamar drops bars aplenty, and if this track doesn’t sound like a line in the sand (and a little bit like Yeezy), a proverbial gauntlet thrown down, then I don’t know what does. And too, we dare not deign to challenge a lyricist of Kendrick’s caliber who’s at the top of his game.
Then Kendrick spits machine gun fire…
Tell me what you gon’ do to me
Confrontation ain’t nothin’ new to me
You can bring a bullet, bring a sword
Bring a morgue, but you can’t bring the truth to me
F*ck you and all your expectations
I don’t even want your congratulations
I recognize you far as confidence and calculated promises all in your conversation
I hate people that feel entitled
Look at me crazy ’cause I ain’t invite you
Oh, you important?
You’re the moral to the story, you endorsing?
Motherf*&%er, I don’t even like you
Corrupted man’s heart with a gift
That’s how you find out who you dealin’ with
A small percentage, whom I’m building with
I want the credit if I’m losing or I’m winning
On my momma that’s the realest sh*t
Track 3. X (with ScHoolBoy Q, 2 Chainz & Saudi) gets slick wit it and cavorts with your ears like the most promiscuous and snatchy beat, the kind of beat that drip-drops luxurious funk grease thick as beeswax all up in your dome and you are totally receptive and alright with it.
Are you on 10 yet? Are you on 10 yet? (wait)
Are you on 10 yet?
Are you on 10 yet? I live on ten (wait)
But are you on 10 yet?!
Track 4. The Ways (with Khalid & Swae Lee) gear shifts into a more romantic vibe, Khalid, and Swae Lee thread their respective silken lyrics through a diamond needle. Grab ya’ bae and wine this one out until the conclusion of this soft-spoken track.
Track 5. Oops (with Vince Staples & Yugen Blakrok) comes and goes in short order, not a bad track but the following track 6. I Am (Jorja Smith) channels Lauren Hill all over the place. It’s a slow burner though with heavy lyrics mellowed out with a lovingly hypnotic beat.
Track 7. Paramedic! Feat. SOB X RBE is 100% head noddin’ music, I love the irregular beat structure, and if you listen real close then you know this an ode to the Black Panther nemesis Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), at the end of this one I get the feeling that bad boys can be good boys too!
Track 8. Bloody Water (with Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak & James Blake) this is one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack along with the following track 9. King’s Dead (with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future & James Blake) both are hype tracks with spooky beats. On the latter track, I enjoyed the tempo switch-up as Kendrick raps his way into a frenzied ball of rap genius!
Next, the album takes a mellow turn with track 10. Redemption Interlude which artfully segues into Track 11. Redemption (with Zacari & Babes Wodumo) this track is a mid-tempo affair featuring relative newbie Zacari, check out his break out track Foggy Windows this is the one which put him on the map, and also, his stand out contribution Love (feat. Zacari) on Kendrick’s much-praised DAMN, K-Dot’s 4th studio album release.
When track 12. Seasons (with Mozzy, Sjava & Reason) tumbles in amid soft piano play and the low-key vocals singing,
“Seasons change, there is still time for us to run away…” This is a great line because it asks us will we stay or run away from our problems. Then, South African artist Sjava vocals wander in and it’s, “Toto, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.” And although I don’t understand the words they still sound like longing, pain, and upheaval. All things we as black folk are accustomed to day in day out if you’re woke. In the end, this one is a rich tapestry of the international kind. When Mozzy lays down,
“I love all of my people
I’m in the slums with all of my people
They tryna tell us that we all equal
We get no justice, so it ain’t peaceful, yeah
They can bluff you; they can beat you…”
We have definitely been bluffed, haven’t we? Then, the Los Angeles rapper Reason has the final say and it ain’t nothin’ nice…
Look, my n&^%a I came from the sewer
Don’t s^%t on my past; you ain’t come from manure
As the track concludes, with, “The worst part is that it sounds so familiar.” This is a gut-punching reminder that there is too many living without versus those living comfortably. We got much work to do, and even that is a most grievous understatement.
Track 13. Big Shots (with Travis Scott) is the lucky number with Travis Scott and Lamar whipping up such high-glow flow. The feels are self-congratulatory and that’s alright, these guys deserve a little fun in the sun.
All of this leads us to track 14. Pray For Me (The Weeknd), and it’s a reminder that regardless where we find ourselves in this thing called life we should be thankful to our ancestors, the universe, and our families. Here’s to the future wherein the impossible remains possible.
Plan to see Black Panther in theaters, February 16th!
You can catch a glimpse of Marvel’s Black Panther movie in this feature trailer:
Read more about the Black Superhero and Marvel’s Black Panther movie: