Black Panther: The Album

Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’, directed by Ryan Coogler, is set to debut on February 16th, right in the heart of Black History Month. This movie, with it’s diversified predominantly black cast, has created quite a hype, especially with it’s trailer, and its announcement that the films soundtrack was to be created by Kendrick Lamar, Anthony ‘Top Dawg’ Tiffith, and the rest of the crew at Top Dawg Entertainment. The Black Panther Album, released February 9th, transports us to Wakanda, featuring a prolific all star cast of black, and African rappers and musicians. This much anticipated album mixes traditional hip-hop conventions with Africana sounds and languages, shining a light on the diverse cultural and musical history of the African continent.

The films official trailer also features interesting music choices. The Trailer mixes Vince Staples ‘BagBak’ with Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken word track ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. Gil Scott-heron is often deemed the originator of political rap, releasing ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ in the early 1970’s. Heron cites important black activists such as poet Langston Hughes, and Black Nationalist Malcolm X, as some of his major inspirations. This trailer is not the first time Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’  has been sampled; most notably it is herd in the intro to Common’s ‘The 6th Sense’ (2000), and the outro of Travis Scott’s ‘Apple Pie’ (2015).

“The head to the body of the belligerent militant group
That sponsors the revolution that will not be televised” – Apple Pie (Travis Scott)

The inclusion of Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, a song responding to urbanization, white supremacy, and institutionalized racism in the 70’s, pushes this film past its superhero plot, allowing for political and historical commentary, one reminiscent of the films namesake: The Black Panther Party. TDE’s in-house producer, Sounwave, stated “I think it’s only right. The movie’s not set in 1910, or the 1960s when ‘Black Panther’ first came out — it’s set in today”, showing that the revolution is far from over.
In an interview with NPR,  Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler, states that he has been a “massive Kendrick fan ever since [he] first heard him, since his mixtapes, and [has] been trying to track him down”. The film’s instrumental score was spearheaded by composer Ludwig Göransson, and TDE’s album “turned out to be the perfect companion piece”. Göransson was also given production credits on track number 5: “Opps”. TDE producer Sounwave, along with Kendrick Lamar, who co-produced 6 of the tracks, integrated quite the roster of artists and musicians, in the production of this highly anticipated album.

 

1. Black Panther – Kendrick Lamar (Prod. by SounWave & Kendrick Lamar)

‘Black Panther’, the first track off the album, is from the perspective of character T’Challa, “King, king, king, king, I am T’Challa!” The song also alludes to Kendrick Lamar being a sort of ‘King’ as well, as he uses the first verse to name a long list of things he is King of, cumulating in the verse “Kings did it, king vision, Black Panther, King Kendrick”.

“King of my city, king of my country, king of my homeland / King of the filthy, king of the fallen, we living again / King of the shooters, looters, boosters, and ghettos poppin’
/ King of the past, present, future, my ancestors watching’ / King of the culture, king of the soldiers, king of the bloodshed / 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 / King of the fighters, king of the fathers, king of the belated / King of the answer, king of the problem, king of the forsaken / King of the empathy, you resent me, king of remorse / King of my enemies, may they father feed, I rejoice / King of the skyscrapers, dodging haters, broke religion / Nine faces, go against ’em, I erased ’em with precision / I embrace them with collision / Kings did it, king vision, Black Panther, King Kendrick / All hail the king, I dropped a million tears / I know several responsibilities put me here” – Kendrick Lamar

This verse examines the responsibilities a King bears, whether it be upholding the legacy of the past, being a role model, or speaking for those who do not have a voice.

2. All The Stars – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (Prod. by Al Shux & SounWave)

This music video, featuring Kendrick Lamar, and SZA, offers interesting view of Africa. The African continent is shown as illuminated, a dig at the European imperialistic perspective of Africa being a ‘dark’ continent, solely because it did not share the same western traditions that Europe and other major imperialistic countries did. This video presents Africa not as a dark place, but an illuminated one; one with a rich culture and cosmology that has been ignored and destroyed by westernization.

3. X – Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Saudi (Prod. by SounWave, co-prod. by !llmind)

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4. The Ways – Khalid, Swae Lee (Prod. by Kendrick Lamar, BadBadNotGood & SounWave)

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5. Opps – Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok (Prod. by Ludwig Göransson & SounWave)

This track features Vince Staples, an avid Kendrick Lamar fan, and Yugen Blakrok, a South African rapper. This song talks about oppressive systems, the US government, institutional racism, and cops.

“They don’t wanna see me gettin’ to the check
They just wanna see me swimmin’ in the debt
Don’t drown on ground, wait until you hear
9-1-1, freeze (zoom, zoom) dead” – Vince Staples

“Stand behind my own bars, like a seasoned criminal
Gotham City Streets, I’ll play the *bleep*
Crushing any system, that belittles us
Antidote to every poison they administer” – Yugen Blakrok

6. I Am – Kendrick Lamar, Jorja Smith (Prod. by SounWave & Kendrick Lamar)

‘I Am’ is sung by British singer Jorja Smith. The track begins with a sample of Travis Scott’s lyrics from ‘Drugs You Should Try It’, on his ‘Days Before Rodeo’ album: “Try it if it feels right (try it), Try it if it feels right, yeah.” In this track Smith sings about the fear that stands in the way of change.

“And I know that we have asked for change
Don’t be scared to put the fears to shame” – Jorja Smith

Jorja Smith is accompanied by Kendrick Lamar for the outro, in which they harmonize about not feeling sorry for being who they are.

7. Paramedic! – SOB X RBE (Prod. by DJ Dahi, Cubeatz & SounWave)

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8. Bloody Waters – Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak, James Blake (Prod. by SounWave & Kendrick Lamar, co-prod. by Robin Hannibal)

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9. King’s Dead – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake (Prod. by Mike Will Made-It, Teddy Walters & Sounwave)

 

10. Redemption Interlude – Zacari (Prod. by Hykeem Carter & Kendrick Lamar)

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11. Redemption – Kendrick Lamar, Zacari, Babes Wodumo (Prod. by Aaron Bow, Teddy Walters, Scribz Riley & Kurtis Mckenzie)

This Caribbean sounding track starts with a sample from DJ Blass’s ‘Rompe Condones’, sung in Spanish. This track features Zacari, also featured on ‘LOVE.’ from Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ album, and Babes Wodumo, a South African artist. In her verse, Babes Wodumo raps in Zulu, an African language: “Ung’bambe, ung’dedele. Ung’bhasobhe, ung’gudluke”, which can be translated into: “Hold me, let me go. Watch out for me and move out the way for me”.

12. Seasons – Mozzy, Sjava, Reason (Prod. by Frank Dukes, Kendrick Lamar & Sounwave)

This song features Sjava, a South African afro-soul artist, Mozzy, and Reason. The first verse, done by Sjava, is sung in Zulu, the African language that is predominately spoken in Southern Africa. The first verse, sung in Zulu, melts into the chorus, sung by Sjava:

“Poverty / Jealousy / Negativity / Ngith’ angandawo la / Go away (far away)” – Sjava

The other two verses, sung by Mozzy and Reason, talk about the hardships black americans have to face because of America’s legacy of institutionalized racism.

“I love all of my people, I’m in the slums with all of my people / They trynna tell us that we all equal / We gettin’ no justice so it ain’t peaceful, yeah” – Mozzy

“I carry my city like guilt that ain’t got no forgiveness / No way out, shit we locked in the system / Catch a case and they not gon’ forgive ya / White skin, you be out before Christmas” – Reason

The last lines of the song refer to two of the main characters from the movie: Erik Killmonger, the antagonist, and T’Challa, the protagonist. The lyrics state: “I am T’Challa, I am Killmonger, One world, one God, one family, Celebration”, showing that everyone has the capacity for good and evil, and at the end of the day we are the same, “one family”.

13. Big Shot – Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott (Prod. by Cardo, Sounwave, Matt Schaeffer & Cubeatz)

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14. Pray For Me – The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar (Prod. by Matt Schaeffer, Cardo, Cubeatz & Sounwave)

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