One week before one of the most talked about superhero movies opens in theaters, Top Dawg Entertainment released what will prove to be a game-changing movie album.
Disney, of all companies, approached Top Dawg Entertainment — home of hip-hop and R&B titans such as ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, SZA and of course King Kendrick — and requested that Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith and Kendrick Lamar curate and produce the album for the “Black Panther” movie. This proved to be a unique opportunity for a record label that has given the world nothing but quality music. With the release of the “Black Panther” album this trend continues.
The “Black Panther” album contains a huge list of features including 2 Chainz, Saudi, Khalid, Swae Lee, Vince Staples, Jorja Smith, SOB X RBE, Anderson .Paak, Future, James Blake, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar who appears on 12 of the 14 tracks. Each artist does their job in capturing the culture, feel and sound of the fictional African country Wakanda, home of the superhero favorite Black Panther.
The production for this album features both futuristic and rural beats. This is a great connection between the music and the “Black Panther” film, as Wakanda is a highly advanced city, yet holds on to what makes their culture great — its rural tribal past. Songs like “All The Stars,” “Opps” and “Big Shot” highlight these sounds and seemingly weave them together to create a new style of music, this being the sound of Wakanda.
Compared to past TDE releases, this album is not as lyrically complex as many listeners have come to expect, but a handful of lines do shine through. One coming early on from ScHoolboy Q who first spends 15 bars bragging about Rolexes, Benz and cash to make it clear that “not even Kendrick can humble me.”
This and many more lines stand out not only because of their relevance, but due to their vocal delivery. The real spark of this album comes from its most aggressive and boisterous tracks. “X,” featuring 2 Chainz, ScHoolboy Q and Saudi, is the first truly captivating song from the album. The three features trade verses as Kendrick takes over to make a bombastic hook where he continues to ask, “Are you on ten yet?”
From there, the album continues on until its next firecracker of a song in “Paramedic!” The exclamation is included in the title, and rightfully so. No other song on the “Black Panther” album can compare to the energy that this song alone creates. In some ways this song can be seen as the heart of the “Black Panther” album, with the songs before building up to it and the songs after allowing the listener to recover. Kendrick only aides the soon to be famous group SOB X RBE in their belligerent stampede of lyrics.
Although the album is not credited under any one artist, it is clear that Kendrick Lamar is the most prominent voice throughout the project. This is the first time where Kendrick seemed to be able to just lay back and have fun. There were not any preset expectations that it would be a concept album, or that this was going to be a story project. Kendrick probably knew this and took advantage of the opportunity. If it was not for the constant “Black Panther” references throughout the album it could easy have been a stand-alone project made just for the fact that it could be made.
All in all the “Black Panther” album is a TDE curated party of quality sound and black excellence.
Colton Newman is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Coltonperson.