Kendrick Lamar - Black Panther
Before I get into this, I want to say two things. One: I’m gonna keep this short and to the point, because research shows that people hate reading. Two: I understand that this is a soundtrack album, so there is a good chance that some context is lost without the imagery.
Black Panther hasn’t even aired in theatres and has already broken box-office records. Because of the all the media this movie is attracting, there is definitely pressure to create an accompanying soundtrack that is worth all the hype that the film is receiving. While that’s a tall order to handle, Kendrick Lamar seems to understand that and help deliver a quality product worthy of praise.
It’s amazing to see how Kendrick has become a more commercial and widely touted artist, while staying true to his style and sound that remain consistent throughout Section.80, To Pimp A Butterfly and so on. Kdot was a perfect match for this project because of a message singularity - black pride. There’s no need to think too deeply about the message (because it’s just a movie), but it’s no coincidence that Lamar was chosen to put this album together, other than the fact he’s one of the most popular artists today. But since this is a soundtrack album, the theme or concept revolves around the content that the movie brings - so I don’t think it’s appropriate to judge this album in that sense.
These are the tracks that stood out to me:
This track is one of the album’s singles, and the accompanying video makes the song that much more beautiful. SZA, dancing in a field of stars, is the exact vibe and energy that I get from this song. Shoutout to whatever stylist had the genius idea to mold SZA’s hair into the shape of Africa as the video ends.
This is a fun track, and sort of substantiates the fact that ScHoolboy Q is the best member of TDE.
Khalid and Swae Lee make an unexpectedly good duo. Their melodies and styles complement each other seamlessly - not to mention the stellar production that eases the song onto you like a wave of fresh air. And if you’re a music nerd like me and love checking the production credits, it’s no surprise why this track is the most well-crafted cut of the entire project.
Of course Vince Staples is here with his experimental rap over an electronic sounding beat. I’m a big fan of Staples, but I’m still undecided on the most recent sound he’s decided to undertake. Just like the entirety of Big Fish Theory and Staples’ experimental rap initiative, this track is either a swing and a miss, or a sound that’s before its time and might be highly regarded far in the future.
This is the in-your-face Kdot that we all love. The track starts on a low-key, smooth note, but the “come at me, bro” side of Kendrick comes out to take over the track. I always imagine Kdot up close on the mic in a domineering fashion when he’s recording a song like this.
I really don’t have much to say about this track, but I had to acknowledge the combination of Ab-Soul, .Paak, and James. The trio brings a lyrical, intoxicating sound that’s laid over an easy beat. Like Khalid and Swae Lee, this is a collaboration that I didn’t know I needed until now.
This. Song. Rides. Travis and Kendrick mesh pretty well on this track, but the more impressive appearance comes from the flute. Flute melodies have been such a staple in today’s rap/hip-hop, and the effervescent instrument flawlessly carries the song along and lives up to its hype.
All in all, this is a well-constructed album that’s worth your time. The project is a 49-minute auditory expression of Black Panther that has me even more excited to see the film. It’s filled with your favorite artists as well as new names you should get to know. The high points outweigh its low points, and the project leaves you wondering how each track fits into the film.
Listen to the album below: