When Kendrick Lamar dropped his music video for his mainstream radio hit "LOVE." there was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot that said "B. PANTHER". This was a confirmation that Lamar would have some involvement with Black Panther in some way, but what? Soon, it was revealed that he was curating the movie's soundtrack and fans got hyped. The success of DAMN. was still enjoying its critical acclaim and it hasn't been one whole year since its release. Was the world really getting new material already? The answer is yes. But does it live up to the hype? The answer is still yes.
However, the soundtrack cannot be classified as a new "Kendrick Lamar album." His influence and fingerprints can be found all over the project, however, he's only credited on six of the fourteen tracks. It's interesting to hear Lamar in his DAMN. prime, but this time with all of these collaborators. His last studio album was very minimal and only featured Rihanna, U2, and Zacari (who has two credited songs on the soundtrack).
Let's talk about the other non-Kendrick artists. I love that fact that it feels like a mix of a superstar veterans (Lamar, The Weeknd, Future, Travis Scott), a TDE reunion (ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul), recent up-and-comers (SZA, Khalid, Vince Staples, Anderson .Paak), and fresh faces (Jorja Smith, SOB X RBE, Zacari, Mozzy). This album has something for everybody and hopefully has turned MCU nerds into hip-hop/R&B fans.
It's also makes perfect sense that nearly every artist on the soundtrack is black. James Blake get to be the token white guy on the album with two credits, just like Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis were the two Tolkien white guys in the movie itself.
Surprisingly, the best song on the album isn't officially K. Dots (he's only on the hook). Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok's "Opps" is a high-energy bass-rattler that fits well during one of the South Korean action scenes in the film. Jorja Smith croons on "I Am" and I'm looking forward to more of her work because she seems to be an artist on the rise. SOB X RBE and Mozzy's Bay Area sound and presence is more than welcome for anyone looking for new hip-hop. Another highlight is the closing track, "Pray For Me", that incorporates the talking drum as the main beat and that can also be heard throughout the movie when Black Panther is on the screen. Just like the film itself, the soundtrack is carefully thought out and constructed.
When's the last time any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie had an album that everyone was anticipating before the movie actually came out? Everything that Black Panther stands for seems to be a cultural movement, specifically in the world of hip-hop, and we're all just along for the ride. Luckily for us, we get some music to turn up to while it's all happening. ★★★★★
★★★★★ Classic | ★★★★ Excellent | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor