My initial thought with Black Panther- The Album was one of concern. Especially because it was stated that Kendrick Lamar would have oversight on the album. It’s not to say that he doesn’t put out stellar work. It’s to say he often loses direction on his own projects. I was worried if he could carry the weight of this. Could he give us what Jay-Z or Prince gave us when they helmed soundtracks? Then came the tracklist and I was a little hopeful. With a good mix of veteran, new and international artist I thought to myself this is more compilation then solo Kendrick album.
The opening track “Black Panther” sets the tone for the album and makes more sense when paired with the movie. I personally don’t care for Kendrick’s voice change-ups but it works here. Next is the first single “All of The Stars” featuring label mate and rising star SZA. This might honestly be the worst track on the entire album. SZA & Kendrick are outperformed by the beat. Belting out songs isn’t SZA’s strong suit and someone should remind her to reign it in. K.Dot leaves a lot to be desired rapping wise. I wasn’t impressed in the least.
If this album was Wakanda tracks 3 through 9 would be the vibranium mine. The third track “X”(10) with Saudi, Schoolboy Q and 2Chainz is the standout track on the album. Soweto (South Africa) rapper Saudi gets the first verse and brings a good mix of Zulu and English. Q has complete control of this beat and reminds us that he can’t even be humbled here, he’s Killmonger on the beat. This track doesn’t lose momentum because next up is 2 Chainz and doesn’t relent even when the beat changes up. Just a stellar track top to bottom.
The following track, “The Ways” is a nice break. Khalid and Sway Lee(Rae Sremmurd) give us a nice jam to groove to. “Opps” follows and gives us the closest thing we’ll get to afrobeat on the album. Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok bring a good mix but Kendrick isn’t needed for the track and winds up hindering it. “I Am” gives the second standout performance of the album and fools you for a second into thinking Rihanna is making guest appearance. Next up are “Paramedic!”, “Bloody Waters” & the second single “King’s Dead”. King’s Dead would’ve been perfect if it wasn’t for Future’s verse that drags the song down. That verse leaves a lot to be desired.
“Redemption Interlude”, “Redemption”, “Seasons”, “Big Shot” and “Pray For Me” are the remaining tracks on the album. They vary from decent to good but overall suffer from the same problem as the rest of the album. Way too much Kendrick without good Kendrick verses. He’s heavy handed and honestly isn’t needed for most of the tracks. There’s a lot to be desired. It also could’ve featured more children of the diaspora such as WizKid, Thandiswa, Little Simz, and Wale to name a few.
All in all I think it falls short when it comes to original soundtracks but works better as a TDE compilation album.
I give Black Panther -The Album 2½ Heart Shaped Herbs out of 5.