For a film as revolutionary and as successful as Black Panther, it’s no surprise that it also has a killer soundtrack. It’s not quite a traditional soundtrack in that it features both music from the film and music “inspired by” the film. Curated by Kendrick Lamar and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, Black Panther: The Album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 300 Chart.
The 14-track album has been especially popular on streaming platforms, earning 93,000 streaming equivalent album units in its first week. Additionally, eight songs from the soundtrack landed on the Billboard Hot 100. Black Panther has made history in a number of ways and the soundtrack is part of that history. With 138.9 million on-demand audio streams during the week ending Feb. 15, it scored the biggest streaming week ever for a soundtrack.
Several of the songs on the album are Lamar’s, including the titular “Black Panther” but the soundtrack features a huge number of guests. This includes well-known names like 2 Chainz, Future, The Weeknd, SZA, Khalid, and Swae Lee. Africa gets a nod through the inclusion of some South African rappers and singers. In “Redemption,” one of the more upbeat tracks, South African singer Babes Wodumo sings over a South African club beat.
The New York Times says that the album’s songs “hint at the movie’s story while concentrating on tales of struggle and swagger much closer to home.” Although you hear some African flavor, the album sounds more like the backdrop to a film set in California.
Some have complained about the Americanization of a film that celebrates Africa. By featuring so few African artists, Lawrence Burney argues, the album “does a poor job of depicting what the African diaspora has to offer.” Another complaint for some listeners is the album feels more pop than hip-hop.
Despite these potential shortcomings, though, there is no question that the album was masterfully curated and it packs a powerful punch. Like the film, it tells a story. It’s both thrilling and reflective. The music makes you think and it makes you feel. The soundtrack is an excellent complement to the film but it also goes beyond the movie to do its own thing.
Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” has been one of the most popular tracks, breaking into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Pray for Me” by Lamar and The Weeknd debuted at #7 but then dropped down to #11. In this album-closing track, you hear a summary of some of the movie’s messages, including the idea of being your own hero.
What’s your favorite song from Black Panther: The Album?