“Who need a hero?
You need a hero, look in the mirror, there go your hero” – Kendrick Lamar
(THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW)
It was initially reported that Kendrick Lamar only planned to do a couple songs for Black Panther but after watching a private screening of the film, he and his label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) decided to release an entire soundtrack. The soundtrack was released on Feb 9th, a week before the release of the movie which was on Feb 16th. I had listened to the soundtrack the day it dropped but held off on doing a review because I wanted to see the movie first in order to gain a better understanding of the soundtrack. I finally got to see it a couple nights ago which is why you are reading this right now.
First of all, if you have not seen Black Panther, you need to fix that. It is truly fantastic (#WakandaForever). It is possible to enjoy this 14 track album without watching the movie but in my opinion, it’s a better listening experience if you have seen it, which makes sense since this album is created around a movie.
After watching the movie, I liked the album a lot more than before watching it. Songs that seemed out of place on the album like “Redemption” by Zacari and Babes Wodumo and “I Am” by Jorja Smith, seemed to sound much better in the context of the actual movie. While other songs like King’s Dead, which had already been released as a single before the album release, sounded even more hard-hitting after I watched the movie.
Much like the film, the instrumentals on this album are heavily inspired by the African culture. From the drums, to the samples, even the verses in African languages, the influence of African culture is very apparent.
Kendrick Lamar is featured on nearly every track with him ad-libbing and/or rapping a whole verse (sometimes as characters from the movie) with standouts verses on the title track “Black Panther”, “King’s Dead” and “Pray For Me”. In terms of features on the album, each artist has a solid verse or song (except Future, but I’ll get into that in a second) with Paramedic by rap group SOB x RBE being the standout. The song “Seasons” which features Reason, Mozzy and South African emcee Sjava where they discuss the struggles and inequality in Africa is another highlight on the album. Sjava even performs an entire verse in the Zulu language. Other notable features were Jay Rock on “King’s Dead” and SZA on All the Stars,
The album does have its low points though, most notably the verse by Future on the song “King’s Dead” where he does his braggadocio filled raps until he randomly starts singing. Horribly. I’m not sure if it was done ironically but even if it was, it’s a painful 15 seconds that feels like an eternity and nearly ruins an otherwise good song.
On it’s own, this album sounds a little all over the place but as a movie soundtrack it compliments the film and makes it a more enjoyable listen.
Favorite Tracks: All the Stars, Paramedic!, Big Shot, Pray For Me, King’s Dead.
Ashar Ahmed aka Thunderous Overlord