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Kendrick Lamar Blends African and Mainstream Rap on “Black Panther” Soundtrack

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Earlier this February, the highly anticipated soundtrack for Marvel’s upcoming movie “Black Panther” was released, one week before the film debuted in theaters. Rap star Kendrick Lamar curated the soundtrack, bringing in a multitude of top tier talent to collaborate and produce the music for it. The line-up which consisted of artist like ScHoolboy Q, Jorja Smith, Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, Khalid, Travis Scott, Future, James Blake, and others did a phenomenal job, putting good music in our ears and telling the story of the Black Panther in the best way possible.

The best thing about the “Black Panther” soundtrack is that none of the tracks sound the same. Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment’s in-house producer, Sounwave, made most of the beats, and gives us a diverse mix of music that includes hip hop, rap, and R&B, giving you no problem with finding something that you like. “Black Panther,” the first song of the soundtrack, is a hard-hitting lyrical onslaught that provides insight to the common people about what it really means to be a king. Here, Kendrick compares himself to King T’Challa, switching the perspectives multiples times, talking about both of their jobs — a rapper dealing with the generalizations that come with it, and a king who’s hiding much more than what he and his kingdom have put out to the world.

The lead single, “All of the Stars” featuring Lamar and SZA is a great pop ballad, that focuses on being unbeatable and the misfortunes that come with being famous. The words from Kendrick’s first verse are absolutely real as he addresses the haters mad at him for succeeding:

I hate people that feel entitled
Look at me crazy ’cause I ain’t invite you
Oh, you important?
You the moral to the story? You endorsin’?
Motherf–ker, I don’t even like you
Corrupt a man’s heart with a gift
That’s how you find out who you dealin’ with
A small percentage who I’m buildin’ with
I want the credit if I’m losin’ or I’m winnin’
On my momma, that’s the realest sh-t

SZA also has an amazing verse, hers touching more on love and heartbreak, a similar theme to her breakout album “CTRL” which dropped last summer.

The following track, “X” featuring ScHoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, and South African artist Saudi was more of the typical uptempo sound that you hear from the new generation. That takes nothing away from the song  — it’s really dope. All of the featured artist have nice verses, especially 2 Chainz who brought his unique wild, southern, “talk my sh*t” flavor to the track, making it phenomenal. They even switched the beat when his verse came on to a more mellow sound, just so the “Hair Weave Killer” can do what he does best with lines like, “Candied my car and it’s sweet like a cavity.”

Lamar did a lot of great things with this album, however one of the most appealing was him showcasing artists of different cultures to bring forth a nice blend of sounds and authenticity to the soundtrack. Just as Drake did with “More Life” in early 2017, Kendrick blends lesser known world music with mainstream rap and promotes five South African artist: Babes Wodumo, Sjava, Yugen Blakrok, and Saudi who kill it on all their tracks  — Yugen’s verse on “Opps” with Vince Staples being my favorite. This way Kendrick puts on for the culture, as well as pays homage to the motherland of Africa where the movie takes place.

One thing that was surprising for me was that most of the soundtrack was not actually in the movie. You get glimpses of the “King’s Dead” instrumental, which is crazy powerful (Future’s verse where he says “Ladidadida, slob on me knob” is the greatest rap lyrics of all time, I kid you not) and some of The Weeknd’s vocals on “Pray For Me,” here and there, but most of the time it’s classic Marvel build-up music, where you hear a lot of string instruments playing until the next scene change or captivating movement. The film score was composed by Ludwig Göransson, the same guy who made the music for “Creed” and produced “Redbone” for Childish Gambino. This move however, was not a disappointment, as the movie could live without the soundtrack.

The “Black Panther” soundtrack was great and the movie was even greater. Although not played out together, separately, they both do a substantial job of melding lesser known foreign culture with mainstream media and music. “Black Panther” hits the big screen on Friday, February 16th. Make sure you get your tickets!

Mack Walker, 15 is a sophomore at North Atlanta High School. His left stroke just went viral.



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