HomeMoviesBlack Panther The Album is DAMN. Near Perfect

Black Panther The Album is DAMN. Near Perfect

“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,” a delicate piano interlude transitions into Kendrick Lamar unleashing some of the most jaw dropping lyrical flows of this decade as he summons the majestic aura and intuitive conquest of T’Challa, the Black Panther and King of Wakanda, on “Black Panther.”

Black Panther: The Album Music from and Inspired By was released on February 9, 2018 and Black Panther officially hits theaters in the United States on February 16, 2018. The story behind this soundtrack is DAMN-near fantasy-like, a musical collaboration made in heaven.

Director Ryan Coogler originally enlisted Kendrick Lamar to produce a few tracks for the film and after Lamar saw a majority of the footage, he offered to curate an entire soundtrack and eventually recruited some of the most popular artists and upcoming talent from Top Dawg Entertainment and beyond. This was the highest vote of confidence from the most prominent artist in modern music and strongly indicates a monumental masterpiece that awaits us from Ryan Coogler and company.

Lamar took it upon himself to develop a musical portrait that expands the notion of theatrical compatibility; a riveting artistic statement that perfectly compliments the transcendent semblance of Black Panther, and what’s incredible about this soundtrack is how it balances the West Coast aura of Lamar’s most illustrious work with the futuristic and unlimited beauty of Wakanda both sonically and instrumentally.

If listeners glance at the tracklist and mentally take note of all the different song titles before they hear the album, “Black Panther” would easily be one of the most highly-anticipated since it is the title-track, opening track, and Lamar’s only solo performance on the entire record. There was so much pressure for Lamar to deliver based off the title alone, and the unrelenting velocity and potent depth to his lyrics in which he summons such a delicate balance between his own realities and personal struggles and the responsibilities that bestow T’Challa as a leader and hero is nothing short of miraculous and brilliant. The vintage beebop piano interlude shifts into heart throttling djembe drum beats, which creates cinematic style tension and eventually finds blissful victory as Lamar confidently states, “I am T’Challa.”

“All The Stars” features SZA who, in my eyes, has officially reached superstar status as her voice provides such a soothing elegance that allows Lamar to bestow rhymes such as, “I don’t even want your congratulations/ I recognize you far as confidence and calculated promises all in your conversation.”

SZA and Lamar summon images of a calming body of water and a burning fire that heightens the emotional peaks and valleys of this track. Both lyrically and thematically, they honor the Black Panther mythos of T’Challa and the Dora Milaje, Black Panther’s female guards, and maximize every single moment of a gorgeous melody and chorus.

From a production standpoint, this soundtrack deserves to win multiple Grammy Awards next year for its captivating tonalities, pristine audio engineering, and cutting-edge balance of synthesizers and African instruments. I would go as far to say as this album has eclipsed Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy as the benchmark for modern cinema soundtracks. Black Panther: The Album summons flashbacks to the orchestrated delivery and futuristic conquests of Daft Punk and each song beautifully transitions into the next with soothing ambience and a diverse palette of synthesized tones, which helps this LP maintain such a high pedigree of momentum.

“Opps” will go down as one of the best hip-hop tracks of the year, an instant classic from the very first listen, and once again, major props to Kendrick Lamar for recruiting Yugen Blakrok. For those unfamiliar, Blakrok is an upcoming hip-hop artist from Johannesburg who is relatively unknown (for now) and was given an opportunity to showcase her skillset alongside Vince Staples and Lamar. She commandeers the spotlight from her very first verse. Case in point, her rhymes are straight fire, “Crushing any system, that belittles us/ Antidote to every poison they administer/ Switch it like time signatures/ Colours in my aura tend cover the perimeter.”

The multitude of bass drops underneath her flow creates this aggressive undercurrent, a tsunami of unbridled confidence that allows her to go off in an eye-opening fashion. She is unconventional, unorthodox, and possesses such unique potential to shove aside the status-quo and make herself a future staple of hip-hop.

Staying with the topic of this album’s upcoming and lesser known artists, SOB X RBE’s “Paramedic!” is destined for chart-topping success as the beats from Sounwave, DJ Dahi, and Cubeatz are some of the most enthralling and contagious of the entire record. “Bloody Waters” features Ab-Soul, Anderson Paak, and James Blake as they transform an unorthodox trio into a cohesive group decorated with heartfelt soul and Olympian-like rhymes atop of plucked violin strings and jazzy rhythms that recall the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.  I haven’t even mentioned Khalid yet but as someone currently overtaking the music world, “The Ways” doesn’t resemble any of the other tracks and I say that for good reason since its unique calmness and melodic fluidity allows the heavier tracks to maximize their punch.

As it pertains to the all-star collaborations featuring Kendrick Lamar and Future on “King’s Dead,” “Pray For Me” with The Weeknd, and “X” featuring Lamar, 2 Chainz, and Saudi, in my opinion, these three tracks surpass the expectations bestowed upon them. “X” and “King’s Dead” are hit singles waiting to happen, both songs merge the progressive tonalities of hip-hop and the theoretical soundscape of Wakanda with hard-hitting beats and poetic storytelling. “Pray For Me,” surmises the dramatic tension and massive obstacles that T’Challa will be forced to confront in the film itself. Through all of T’Challa’s trials and tribulations, Lamar’s emotive delivery and the desperation within his voice allows The Weeknd’s softer conviction to create this uplifting aura of victory, hope, and prosperity.

Back in 1989, Prince produced an entire score for Tim Burton’s Batman and nearly 30 years later, Kendrick Lamar has reinvented that blueprint in a modern context. Dare I say, Lamar might just be the Prince of hip-hop considering his unreal versatility, the depths to his creative approach as a songwriter, and his uncanny ability to bring out the best in other musicians and contribute to songs that will likely launch many careers. Lamar’s team includes his frequent collaborator and producer Sounwave and Top Dawg CEO Anthony Tiffith, who absolutely conducted their research and created a score that feels authentic to the grandiose aura of Wakanda yet listeners unfamiliar with Black Panther could still listen and appreciate the melodic density of their songwriting.

Check out our review of Black Panther.

Considering the multitude of artists and genres throughout this soundtrack, all hands were on deck to deliver the best possible musical and artistic statement. The entire roster deserves so much credit for surpassing the highest expectations and producing thought-provoking and socially conscious material through a Marvel and Disney outlet, which will potentially reach millions of people around the world.

Throughout this LP, issues and examples of social injustice and racial prejudice against minorities, especially in the black community, are confronted head-on. As a collective whole, all of the performers understood the social significance of Black Panther and its potential to create hope in the face of hatred, and how the success of this film could positively change the landscape of Hollywood for African-American actors, performers, directors, and beyond.

Historically speaking, I am highly confident that both this film and its companion soundtrack will be revered upon for generations to come and the heroes will include this superbly talented roster of musicians who came together and helped Black Panther break racial barriers and achieve the highest echelons of success.

Black Panther The Album Rating: 10/10


Anthony Toto
Anthony Totohttps://pathbrite.com/AnthonyMToto/profile
Anthony Toto is a senior writer and social media manager for The Pop Break. Works in the music industry and interviews prominent artists, bands, and musicians. Longtime guitarist, Rutgers Graduate, and wholeheartedly believes in the ethereal power of music.

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