The new Young Fathers album is their most intriguing and absorbing yet, building effortlessly on the plaudits received by their previous workWritten by Letty Gardner on 23rd March 2018
Album Review: Black Panther The Album
Kendrick Lamar and co. produce a soundtrack to rival the very best in Marvel's discography, to accompany the most important superhero film of the last twelve months
Having first heard The Weeknd's new single ‘Pray For Me’ (feat. Kendrick Lamar) last week and being hooked on it ever since, I was thrilled to see that the Black Panther soundtrack had dropped last Friday. Kendrick Lamar has writing credits on all 14 tracks, his voice features in almost every song and he performs in 5 of them. A promising start, it seems Kendrick’s monopoly of the R&B scene has not been missed by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler who sought out Kendrick’s artistry. Boasting an all-star list of award-winning artists, the soundtrack contains the likes of SZA, Jorja Smith, Anderson .Paak, Khalid and James Blake, as well as lesser-known South African artists Yungen Blakrok, Saudi, and Sjava.
“It seems Kendrick’s monopoly of the R&B scene has not been missed by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler who sought out Kendrick’s artistry
The album’s leading single is Kendrick and SZA’s ‘All The Stars’, a stunning collaboration that compels you to listen to the whole album. With SZA’s dreamy vocals combining effortlessly with Kendrick’s gritty tone over a steady beat, ‘All The Stars’ is a modern and irresistible love song. But with lyrics like ‘I hate people that feel entitled / Look at me crazy cause I ain’t invite you’ Lamar makes a dig at those who have tried to capitalise on his success as rap royalty, and are not entitled to his friendship.
‘The Ways’ has Khalid on the chorus, crooning the lyrics ‘I really wanna know your ways / I really want a power girl / You been runnin' through my section all day / You been runnin' through my mind all day’ and features Swae Lee’s smooth vocals in the verses. An unlikely addition to the album, it is carried by Khalid’s soulful, rough voice on an otherwise forgettable song. ‘Bloody Waters’, on the other hand, is memorable and likely to divide opinion. Featuring Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak and James Blake, it is a mash-up of individuality, creating an unusual and uneven sound. .Paak’s passionate singing contrasts with Ab-Soul’s no-nonsense lyrics, and James Blake brings it all together with his ambient hook. Its daring and features tribal instrumentals and sounds, reminding you that the album is a soundtrack to a Marvel warrior movie.
“The album is a peculiar concoction of individual voices, sounds, and lyrics, but that come together to form a work of cultural brilliance
‘X’ is energetic and powerful, including Saudi singing in Zulu and ScHoolboy Q rapping the lyric ‘Not even Kendrick can humble me’ – a nod to K-dot's musical reverence and his smash-hit ‘Humble’. Similarly, ‘Opps’ is a fast-paced rhythm that features Yugen Blakrok’s lyric ‘Blades on the top, Kathleen Cleaver/ Tangle my chords like a weaver’, a reference to former leader of the historic Black Panther Party and her legacy. In contrast, Jorja Smith stuns on her slow and sensual track ‘I Am’, showing off her impressive voice and versatility, slotting perfectly into a male-dominated album.
Never one to shy away from voicing his views, the album is peppered with Kendrick’s political references. He cleverly draws parallels with the plotline of the film, set in the fictitious nation Wakanda, and his own experiences within the African-American community. (e.g. ‘Sisters and brother in unison, not because of me / Because we don't glue with the opposition, we glue with peace.)
The album is a peculiar concoction of individual voices, sounds, and lyrics, but that come together to form a work of cultural brilliance. Ultimately, the album stands solidly on its own, and as a precursor to the film itself, which I cannot wait to see.
Black Panther The Album is out now via Interscope Records. Catch Black Panther now in cinemas.