“Reviewing” the ‘Black Panther’ Soundtrack Based on Its Tracklist
Yeah, we've only heard two of the songs in full but there's enough to work with here.
Photo via screenshot
It’s here. I mean, the Black Panther soundtrack isn’t actually here because only two complete songs have been released so far, but on Wednesday Kendrick Lamar shared its tracklist in full. He’s co-producing the album with TDE label founder Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, which anyone excited about this film already knows and has been having fever dreams about since early January. To say that black folk who don’t normally care about comics adapted to film are “looking forward to” Black Panther is a laughable understatement.
So far, we’ve been the recipients of crumbs of information, scattered into cupped hands. Stuff like 32 seconds of a song heard in trailers, one of which hinted at a Vince Staples appearance. Things like the briefly satiating full audio of Kendrick and SZA’s duet “All the Stars”, which dropped on 4 January, or Jay Rock, Future, James Blake and Kendrick collab “King’s Dead.” Shit like deeply PR’d quotes from Kendrick saying things like: “Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is amazing, from its cast to its director. The magnitude of this film showcases a great marriage of art and culture. I'm truly honored to contribute my knowledge of producing sound and writing music alongside Ryan and Marvel's vision." OK my guy, but where are the other songs?
Now, you can at least read their titles. In case you hadn’t seen this last night, have a look:
I’ll be the first to point out to the Beyoncé stans that her name is indeed nowhere to be found, but that doesn’t mean she won’t make a surprise appearance. The Beyhive have already noted the black panther clutch their queen wore to the Grammys last Sunday, as well as the panther-shaped earrings she wore the day before the Grammys. But we’ll come to that in a second. First, please enjoy this review of the Black Panther: the Album based entirely on the song titles and artist names designated to each track, because such is the level of anticipation.
Black Panther – Kendrick Lamar
Already legendary. Lots of emotive drums. At one point there’s a breakdown where everything else falls away except Kendrick’s vocal and a rousing synth or set of strings before clattering drums kick back in for a climactic final chorus. The one your aunties will walk out of the cinema singing and later quote in the family WhatsApp when you accomplish something.
All the Stars – Kendrick Lamar, SZA
As my colleague Kristin Corry wrote when it first came out: “It’s crisply produced, with a heavily modulated hook, lush strings and a canter-pace beat. SZA’s voice is irrepressible, untethered but perfectly controlled, and no amount of polish can corrode that. And Kendrick has been bringing out his embattled inner superhero a lot lately.” One for crying to.
X – Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Saudi
The first club banger on the soundtrack. Saudi, one of several South Africans on the album, switches between a trap flow in English and Xhosa. Schoolboy Q’s flow is smooth as butter, 2 Chainz sings the hook on some seductive shit.
The Ways – Khalid, Swae Lee
A slow jam. Khalid sounds cute, Swae sounds like he just woke up from a weed nap.
Opps – Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok
This one soundtracks A Very Hectic Battle Scene and basically Vince blacks out on it. Johannesburg’s Yugen’s husky bars temper Vince’s flow. The person next to you in the cinema does a little squeal.
I Am – Jorja Smith
Look, by now we all know that Jorja’s natural-born state is balladry so this is either some highly emotional moment or one of those times when an action film tries to soften itself long enough for a romantic subplot to develop. Jorja’s voice will crack during the bridge. It’ll make you think about your ex.
Paramedic! – SOB x RBE
This Vallejo group of four always sit riiiight back on the beat, so here they’ll be chasing a bassline before tumbling into a chorus with double-tracked vocals blaring out a hook.
Bloody Waters – Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak, James Blake
Slick as hell. It’s actually synced to a really tragic scene where some main character dies or is injured or whatever. The one guys are going to slyly add to their sex playlists, not realising it’ll make their Tinder date want to discuss the film’s highlights mid-shag.
King’s Dead – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake
Over to Kristin again: “Jay Rock raps double-time over the heavy beat, while Future channels Juicy J's flow in a hilariously high pitch. Switching tempos more than half way through the song, Kendrick ends with a fiery flow himself, mirroring Rock's energy at the top of the song.” Michael B Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is stunting like a true villain when this plays.
The Beyoncé one, obviously. Lots of vocal layers, a cappella. The choir sounds good.
Redemption – Zacari, Babes Wodumo
Never forget that Zacari made a song quite literally called “Cuffin’ Season pt 1” so expect to hear South Africa's Babes Wodumo locking into her sweet side on a song about two enemies becoming mates. The beat will be hard though.
Seasons – Mozzy, Sjava, Reason
Another bilingual track. Sjava sings a bit in Zulu. Reason (the rapper from California, not the rapper from Johannesburg with the same artist name) spits out a breathless verse so crammed with lyrics that it sends people to Genius for months afterwards.
Big Shot – Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott
There are lots of verses in this one. The official version is like eight minutes long, and worth every second.
Pray for Me – The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar
Even as someone who’s never been about The Weeknd this is where he really gets to stretch into full falsetto, to the highest impact. Kendrick slips into his tender mode but tbh by the third verse is yelling and you’ll realise that this song comes about three-quarters of the way through the film because that’s when the story has viewers the most shook. This is the one English football teams will try to sync in ads.
You can find Tshepo just double-checking with the PR that she's on the list for that Black Panther screening next week on Twitter.