Marvel has already taken over Hollywood. Now it’s trying to take over the music industry as well. The Black Panther is about to be one of the biggest movies of the year, can the album match the same hype?
We discussed on the latest True Too Roundtable:
What are your first reactions after hearing the album?
Isaac Biehl: You know, this album is pretty good. It shows Kendrick and Top Dawg have really strong curating abilities. They’ve paired up some artists here that are just really smart moves. They’ve built this thing up better than a DJ Khaled album, which, really isn’t that hard when you think about it. Regardless, I’m down with it.
CJ Maruyama: Pretty well composed and organized. I feel a sense of uniformity in theme, obviously, but also in overall flow of the project. For me, the “soundtrack” bequeaths an atmosphere worth of comic book culture; flowing with up’s and down’s, as well as the assignment of complementary matching media (e.g. sonics, visuals, linguistics, etc.) coming together to paint an overarching story; with this project in particular coalescing around the film. Take a look at any well done comic-inspired film: 300, The Dark Knight, Sin City, Logan, etc. The soundtrack sets the tone for each and every scene. Likewise, this project sets a high standard for the ensuing film.
Keelen Wolfe: Give us an Isaiah Rashad feature and we basically would have had a pretty good preview of what a Black Hippy album would have been like. Regardless, big ups to Top Dawg for introducing me to artists like Saudi, Sjava, and Mozzy, who all made the most out of their features.
Michael Charlebois: Honestly, I can’t remember being pumped up for a movie soundtrack as if it were an album release since… Since what? The Straight Outta Compton soundtrack I guess? That was a dope album, this is a dope album. Anytime you get one of the most talented dudes in music curating an album with artists he knows and trusts, it’s going to be dope.
Are you more or less inclined to go see the movie now?
Charlebois: Never been a watcher of Marvel movies, but Jemele Hill and Kendrick endorsed it. That’s all I need.
Maruyama: I do love a great soundtrack. In fact, the modern day movie has largely neglected the importance of a complementary score. However, Marvel movies, in my opinion, have been watered down and played out the past few years, or at least since Disney bought them out. So no, I will probably not go see Black Panther. But to answer the question, yes this album makes me want to see the movie more so than previously.
Wolfe: I wasn’t entirely sold on the movie before, because while I can understand that Marvel is trying to add some diversity to it’s cinematic universe, it’s difficult to see the title Black Panther and not think that they’re forcing it a bit. Like why not cast Donald Glover as the third iteration of Spiderman and really shake things up, especially seeing as following old tropes didn’t work out the first two times. But after listening to this album, and reading about Kdot’s praise for the film, it will be difficult for me to pass on it.
Biehl: I’ve been talking about this movie ever since Black Panther made his appearance in the last Captain America flick. Black Panther is just dope. Now I’m even more curious to see which songs make it into the actual film, and where. Cause that could be hype in the theater. Plus Kendrick agreed to doing this after seeing the full movie which means it’s awesome. I’m all in on Black Panther.
What does it mean to you to have Kendrick Lamar as the face of The Black Panther album?
Charlebois: A lot! I know one of the directors, Joe Robert Cole, said it was a historic opportunity to depict a black super-hero for mainstream audiences. And so many of the ideas behind this film are courtesy of guys like Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Brian Stelfreeze, so it seems fitting that Kendrick is on board. He’s the most culturally relevant and respected African-American artist alive… Who else would you want?
Biehl: Black Panther is a movie made for the people. For the culture. Having the guy who created To Pimp A Butterfly as the face of the soundtrack, for the most prominently black cast super hero movie to ever be made a blockbuster, is perfect. Kendrick puts a lot of pride in his heritage, just as director Ryan Coogler and actors Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyongo, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker and Daniel Kaluuya do. And that’s just scratching the surface on how powerful this film could be.
Maruyama: K Dot channels his inner Yeezy and displays his compositional prowess as he challenges his own sonics while simultaneously putting fellow artists on a big stage.
Wolfe: It’s an obvious choice, but it really gets me wondering as to what the original plan was for the album, because as it stands I don’t feel like more than 3-4 songs off of it will actually fit into a movie setting. Of course, I hope to be proven wrong, but I just don’t see how “Paramedic” or “Big Shot” can be used on the big screen. Also, who else is hoping for a cameo?
What’s your favorite song on the album?
Maruyama: Paramedic! It’s a straight slap. SOB X RBE / the Bay Area are finally getting props. Thank you K Dot, big ups for helping out NorCal. This song will feature on several of my pump up and high energy playlists. I swear it just makes me want to gig every time.
Biehl: There’s a lot of options here but “X” just fucking bangs. Schoolboy Q even has the balls to say “Not even Kendrick can humble me,” which is wild.
Wolfe: While I really dig the house drums on “Opps,” my favorite track has to be “Bloody Waters.” Having James Blake and Anderson .Paak on the same song is a dream come true.
Charlebois: A few late contenders: I love Jorja Smith on “I Am;” “Opps” sounds like an extension of Big Fish Theory and it bangs. But, “King’s Dead” is still my #1. Catchy-ass hook, a mind-bending beat change, and “LA DI DA DI DA, SLOB ON ME KNOB” – Future.
Which song disappointed you the most?
Wolfe: Easy. “Big Shot.” Reason: “Goosebumps.” Also, that flute is fucking obnoxious.
Charlebois: Yeah, “Big Shot” reminds me of the dollar store version of “GOD.” Travis being on here seems a little more financially incentivized than any other motive.
Biehl: I’m unfortunately getting used to The Weeknd letting me down.
Maruyama: The Ways. I really like Khalid, and still listen to American Teen a decent amount. So the first two minutes of this song was on point for me. But Swae Lee, wow. I cannot say I am a fan of his heavily auto-tuned verse. It’s a big turn off for me. I’ll still listen to the track because of K Dot and Khalid, and for the sake of a complete listening of the album, but Swae’s contributions did not do it for me.
Which artist on the album would you most like to see play a superhero on the big screen?
Wolfe: This one is tough, so I’m just going to say Vince because I’m already a fan of his personality and I think that he would put the most effort in to portraying a superhero. 2 Chainz is a close second though.
Charlebois: Kendrick’s brand re-invention on DAMN made it easier to see him as a super-hero than I ever could have imagined. I gotta go with SZA, though. Her balance of empowerment, gratitude, and grace in her image is really unlike any popular female artist I’ve ever seen. She’s a queen.
Maruyama: ScHoolboy Q. He’d be like a wood wizard mage or something mystical and low-key philosophical. Or Travis Scott. He’d be a flying action figure, like Toy Soldiers movie status, fighting crimes of monotony. Straight up.
Biehl: Oh hands down Vince Staples. He’s got the right humor, the right amount of don’t test me, and he’d do it all in his own way. I legitimately think this should happen. They already missed the boat not making Donald Glover Spider Man, so let’s right this wrong: While it isn’t Marvel, I think DC needs to get going on a Teen Titans production and cast Staples as Beast Boy. Or even a standalone film. Let’s fucking go!
Who had the best line/verse/performance on the album?
Charlebois: Well Future has the best line, obviously. Jorja has the best performance on “I Am.” The way she sings “When you know what you got, sacrifice ain’t that hard,” it’s the albums most beautiful moment.
Maruyama: Jorja Smith. I’m not going to act like I knew anything about her before my latest Google Search, but damn she absolutely killed it! I Am is smooth as fuck. Real baby-making music. Wavy. Emotional. Gorgeous. I did not see this answer coming, considering how much I love ScHoolboy, Travis, and several of the other features. But hers outshines them all.
Wolfe: Jorja Smith. Those high notes are impeccable.
Biehl: High pitched-squealy Future is my spirit animal: “CHIDDY CHIDDY BANG, MURDER EVERYTHANG.”
Will this be one of the best hip hop albums come year’s end?
Maruyama: Without a doubt. At this point, anything Kendrick puts out will automatically be considered for any best hip hop nomination at the end of the day. And deservedly so. Not only has he proven himself time and time again as an amazing and visionary artist, but this project portrays his ability to play executive producer curating a compilation of other artists in a cohesive and effective fashion. Not only should we consider Kendrick solely a rapper; he’s an artist to the core.
Wolfe: Another tough question because it’s only February, but I don’t think this is going to be up there when it’s all said and done. But that’s only because of the long awaited albums that are supposed to drop this year (I’m looking at you, Pusha).
Biehl: If Kendrick touches it, its got a shot. A “Big shot.” (See what I did there?)
Charlebois: It very well could be. Extremely consistent tracklist. Very few letdowns, if any. It’ll be hard to compare a movie soundtrack to a singular statement from an artist, but it’s what we’ll do. This sets a high bar.
Please insert a GIF that best resembles how you feel when listening to Black Panther The Album:
The Black Panther hits theaters everywhere, February 16th.