Black Panther hit theaters on Friday and is expected to make as much as $200 million in the four days that follow, according to Variety. Black Panther The Album dropped last week is expected to debut on Billboard’s 200 Hot Album Chart at number 1.
The album mirrors the film’s heart, drive, and overdue representation of African and African-American culture. The full title is Black Panther The Album Music From and Inspired By. The music alone is inspiring. Kendrick Lamar is the shadow behind each song. He gives more depth but does not take away from the many talented artists that make this 14 track album knock you down in the best way possible.
Jorja Smith’s “I am” was purely modern R&B tinged with anticipation. “And I know that we have asked for change/ Don’t be scared to put the fears to shame,” she quietly clamors. The emerging British singer was just named on BBC’s ‘ones to watch list’ and has been in the news recently for her friendship with Drake. This song is proof that they’re not wrong.
“If who I am offends you, don’t feel sorry/ My loss is worth more than your wins,” Lamar cuts in during the last verse. He is the glue that holds this album together, but a somehow flexible glue that manages to make each song flow effortlessly into the next.
“I am Killmonger,” preaches Lamar within the first note of the following song. A play on both the previous song title, and the films antagonist, played by Michael B. Anthony. Killmonger, Lamar and SOBxRBE were all born in California, according to Genius. “I’m a California n*gga and I’m heavy in the streets,” sings Lamar. The song is a juxtaposition of the film’s villain and the villainous lives people often find themselves in. Gangsters “wish a n*gga would” say something so they can kill them, like Killmonger wishes Black Panther would step out of place so he could kill him.
Each song could (and should) be analyzed beyond relief. The two biggest singles are All The Stars (Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA) and Pray for Me (Kendrick Lamar ft. The Weekend). They are almost everywhere right now and should be a stepping stone for listeners into the greatest film soundtrack of recent history.
Marvel films don’t normally come with a soundtrack. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the first films in the franchise to drop an album that wasn’t film score, but, to it’s theme, most songs were nostalgic 80’s pop.
This album breaks your heart and heals it at the same time. It makes you aware of the powerful men and women of color who have often been overshadowed. It’s a constant juxtaposition of Black Panther’s fictional world of trying to save his home and black artists trying to save their culture.