Kendrick and co. slay ‘Black Panther’ soundtrack

Emma Knudson, Staff writer

Mastering a movie soundtrack such that it can exist as a standalone piece and buoy a film is a difficult feat.

Too many soundtracks are so intertwined with the film that listening to it without the accompanying scenes to support it feels disjointed. It’s almost like eating spaghetti sauce without the spaghetti—it has good flavors, but it’s not meant to be. The texture is all wrong. And it’s missing that driving force, the vehicle that gives the sauce (or in this case the music) meaning, and vice versa. This isn’t true of the “Black Panther” soundtrack.

Led by Kendrick Lamar and accompanied heavily by a myriad of hip-hop and R&B artists from both the U.S. and abroad, each track is rooted within the film’s direction, yet simultaneously has a life of their own. Though Lamar is at the helm of the project, he’s only briefly featured in many of the tracks, allowing other artists to shine through, such as 2 Chainz, SOB X RBE, Ab-Soul, Future, and female powerhouses like SZA and Jorja Smith.

Lamar starts the soundtrack on a high note with the track “Black Panther,” reminiscent of his urgent and controlled style, shifting from one beat to another. From there, the high points truly lie in the power of the other artists and their diversity of sound. Khalid and Swae Lee take on sweet and smooth melodics that’s sure to last throughout the summer season, and ScHoolboy Q gets gritty while channelling his bravado (admitting “Not even Kendrick can humble me,”) as Saudi intermingles English with his native Zulu to assert the power of his heritage on the track “X.”

The women on the album are also incredibly powerful. Babes Wodumo uplifts the track “Redemption” with her smooth and dancing vocals while

Yungen Blakrok puts all of the rappers on this album to shame with her mind-numbing verse in “Opps.”

The weak points of the album, unfortunately, serve in the “hits.” “Pray For Me” feels too much like a recycled Starboy song, and “Big Shot” features a verse by Travis Scott that’s easily forgettable, however catchy the song may be. “All The Stars,” which features SZA and Lamar, hangs somewhere in between being a contrived hit and an inspired hit because of it’s formulaic framework.

Regardless, each song can easily be enjoyed even if you have yet to see the highly-rated film it accompanies. This standalone ability all lies within the creativity, strength, and diversity each artist brings on the soundtrack, making it a well-deserved success for everyone involved.