Everything about Black Panther has been breaking boundries. From it’s casting of black talent, it’s influence on culture, all the way to the soundtrack. The Black Panther album was curated by one Kendrick Lamar and features a vast array of black artists. Does the album live up to the hype that movie has generated?
In a previous post I spoke about how amazing the tracklisting to this album was, I spoke about how inspiring, influential and culturally important this album was and has the potential to be. The boxes are ticked in that respect, with Black Panther breaking down hegemonic barriers both in Hollywood and in music. We all know by now how successful this whole project is, so let’s just talk purely about what we can hear.
Kendrick Lamar plays the biggest part on the album, something we always knew was the case. He curated, produced and largely features on a lot of the songs. This can be seen very early in with the first track being a solo Kung Fu Kenny piece, and the second track being the massively popular All The Stars featuring Kenny and SZA. It’s a lot softer than other tracks on the album, whether that’s to suit Disney’s needs I’m unsure. It’s not a terrible track, but not a home run, but it’s certain to push the album commercially. Kendrick features near enough everywhere on the album, even if he isn’t down on the track list.
For me the album really picks up at track five, Opps, featuring Kendrick, Vince Staples and Yungen Blakrok. The production takes a crazy turn to the tracks previous to it, something you’d expect when Staples is on a track. Vince drops a fantastic verse as does Kendrick, but it’s really Yungen Blakrok who steals the show with a verse that fully suits the beat, and one that goes hard.
Following on from that we get the best track on the entirety of the album for me, I Am, by Jorja Smith. There’s no flashy guest verses of Kendrick dropping 16 bars, just Smith giving us beautiful vocals over some very slick and strong production.
It’s from here that James Blake is introduced to the album. He was involved in the production of the tracks he features in, Bloody Waters and Kings Dead, the latter of which is one of the leading tracks of the album, and one of the best tracks too. Future provides us with an absolutely insane verse, which can be matched by Jay Rock’s verse and Kendrick’s addictive hook. This is probably the best track on the album for a lot of rap fans.
Big Shot featuring Kenny and Travis Scott opens with some very unique production, which was a very refreshing listen. Kenny and Travis both go high pitch for this track, which I can imagine annoys some people, I kind of liked it. It’s a very stop and start song, far from the best these two have done together, but good nonetheless.
The album ends on Pray For Me, with The Weeknd and Kenny. Much like the track with SZA, it’s clear that it’s a commercial song, something Disney will love. That certainly doesn’t make it bad, but much like the track previous to it, it could be better.
Overall this isn’t near a Kendrick solo release, but that was always expected. It’s slightly held back by it’s connection to Disney in honesty, had this album took place without Disney, we’d have something much heavier, filled with more content and more risks. The incredible thing is it’s still a very good album, one of the best so far this year albeit mid February.