‘Black Panther: The Album’ hypes listeners for movie but can stand alone

Ty Davis and Miles Parrish

Photo courtesy of “Black Panther: The Album”

Rarely has there ever been an album based on a major film whose excitement has not only stood alongside the film itself, but in some ways stood separate from the film.

The press coverage of the film, “Black Panther,” is filled with news of one good decision after another, from design, cast and the decision to commission Top Dog Entertainment, the record company boasting the likes of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and Schoolboy Q, to create the soundtrack for the film.

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After the wave of hype following his “DAMN.” release, Lamar seems like the obvious choice for making an album for Marvel’s “Black Panther.” Not only does this album excel in fitting in thematically with the “Black Panther” movie, but it also excels in standing on its own as a celebration of the culture behind the music. Kendrick also adds some lesser-known artists out of Africa to the celebration with their addition to the feature list.

The instrumentals throughout the album are consistently superb. This is a Kendrick Lamar album through and through, and in many ways, the album sounds like a spiritual successor to “To Pimp A Butterfly.” Rather than pulling from jazz or funkadelic, like “To Pimp a Butterfly,” “Black Panther: The Album” instead experiments with fusions of electronic music.

Luckily, the album does not lean too far into experimentation that it becomes inaccessible. There is an elegance to the composition that puts the album more in line with TPAB, than Lamar’s most recent album “DAMN.” The electronic infusion brings a type of rapid energy to the hard hitting beats of songs like “X”, “Opps,” and “Paramedic.” The focus on electronic does not leave the album with only one sound. The album allows for hints of many types of genres like R&B, soul, rock and gospel sprinkled throughout many songs in the album.

“Black Panther” has style, and “Black Panther: The Album” has the sonic equivalent of style.

The album also makes great use of South African instrumentals that are present even in the most heavy bangers on the album, giving a unique sound to each of the tracks, even the most distinctly American ones. These instrumentals along with the focus on electronic experimentation, partners greatly with the film’s setting and creates a sound that not only encapsulates the film’s vision but creates such a vivid tone that you can visualize what the song would portray and where best to place it in the film. “Black Panther” has style, and “Black Panther: The Album: has the sonic equivalent of style.

The feature list serves as a major highlight for the “Black Panther” album. Although it’s stacked with plenty of heavy hitters in the music world such as Travis Scott, Future, Anderson Paak., etc., the album also sports features from artists out of South Africa that bring just as much to the table. The track “X” is an absolute banger, and South African rapper Saudi comes in hot; blending English and Zulu, a language native to South Africa, flawlessly with his verse. Sjava also utilizes Zulu beautifully on the song “Seasons” with Mozzy and Reason. Sjava’s entire verse is in Zulu as a tribute to South Africa and its people, which adds great value to the sentiment being portrayed on the track.

On the song “Opps” Yugen Blakrok comes in fierce after Kendrick and Vince Staples with comparisons to cyborgs and Batman villains while threatening to dismantle anything that gets in her way. While one may not expect these artists to perform at the same level as some of the biggest names in the music world today, they do so seemingly with ease, and, arguably, outshine them. Because of the initial mystery that comes with their feature on the “Black Panther” album, their performance is that much more exciting to bear witness to.

The “Black Panther” album overall is a really solid project. With a feature list as strong and regionally diverse as the one on this project, it is very hard to disappoint, especially when your album is curated by Lamar. And while there may be low points on this album, they aren’t necessarily low in quality but instead just less impressive than the rest of the album.

Sonically, the production of almost every song caters to the artists in such a way that brings some of their best work out of them. This can be heard on tracks like “X” and “Seasons.” The “Black Panther” album does a fantastic job of building up excitement for the movie coming out on Feb. 16 while also celebrating the culture that’s behind the music. Not often does music geared towards marketing another product carry such great meaning on its own.

Collegian reporter Miles Parrish can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @parrishm20.

Collegian reporter Ty Davis can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyDavisACW.

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