Kendrick Lamar serves as an executive producer to box office smash Black Panther's album
People have been ready for a standalone Black Panther film since the character made it's big screen appearance in previous MCU movies. News broke that Kendrick Lamar would be executive producing the soundtrack, Black Panther: The Album, and we felt certain that this entire package was the real deal.
The man dropped DAMN. and it was a smash, critically and acclaim-wise. You're telling me he's gonna turn around in under a year to put together the sounds for what may be one of the biggest movies of 2018? Excellent! I'm all for it.
From the get go, I'm thinking Sounwave. He's a TDE record producer and A&R and I don't see this project happening without his skillful touch all over it. Luckily, this NPR editorial featuring Ryan Coogler and Sounwave about the soundtrack put me at ease.
Next thing on my mind is whether or not Kendrick will have any credits on this project besides exec work. We saw Quavo rack up credits for beats for Culture II. Why not Kendrick for his material too?
The overall production is my angle. Beats, sequencing, feature contributions...the whole gauntlet. Anything that has to do with creating this final product piques my interest.
1. Kendrick Lamar - "Black Panther" Prod.
The lighter flick is reminiscent of Lil Wayne. That string rise into the song is chilling. It's extremely cinematic and gives you a feeling of action around the corner. What a clever way to start off the soundtrack! The piano riff is simple and looming. It sits well underneath Kendrick's rap to start out. Slight beat switch. I'm wondering if they used something like a 1/2 speed plugin on the piano for that switch. I like the xylophone-esque sound in there. This song makes me want to be a better person. Kendrick keeps asking me if I'm a king and I want to say "Yes."
2. Kendrick, SZA - "All The Stars" Prod. Al Shux & Sounwave
Dope! Slight Salt N Pepa "Let's Talk About Sex" interpolation. "Spinderella cut it up one time!" I'm feeling how they processed Kendrick's vocals on the chorus.
I feel like SZA keeps getting better. Her vocals seem to improve every time I hear her. Couple that with her writing ability and relatable persona, and the sky is the limit. Aside from the drums and percussion, this song reminds me of some classic Drake and 40 sounds. The leads and background instruments are lingering and pensive. Send me the stems so I can slow the tempo and make a "Drake & 4o/So Far Gone" type beat.
3. ScHoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Saudi - "X" Prod. !llmind & Sounwave
The drum hit on the intro is epic in and of itself. Are these timpani? Oop, good transition. This beat is jiggy already. Saudi sounds dope. I'm upset his name is "Saudi" because SEO is an uphill battle and I can't find him online right now. I'll check Spotify later. I'm predicting that Drake is going to get in touch with him somehow. ScHoolboy has the smoothest grittiness I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. Beat switch for 2 Chainz's verse! That's a situation where predictability is welcomed. I really didn't need Kendrick's vocal chops punched in over 2 Chainz's intro. I'm convinced that's 1/2 speed. Every trap producer would be proud.
4. Khalid, Swae Lee - "The Ways" Prod. Sounwave & BADBADNOTGOOD
Okay, so it's a match being lit. Khalid's presence is very relaxing. Here comes Swae Ripperton with the vocals! Uncredited vocals from Kendrick. I like the percussion loop panned to the right. It sits well with the modern trap hats.
5. Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok - "Opps" Prod. Sounwave & Ludwig Göransson
Uncredited Kendrick vocals again. Okay, wow it's more like a whole featured verse. This is taking me somewhere. I'm not sure where yet, but I'm going. This rhythm has me hitting a "Thriller" video shoulder jerk. I'm getting a Kanye vibe sounds-wise. Maybe, it's the vocal hits and chops mixed with the drum selection. Wait, that bass line is panning slightly left and right. I'm not crazy. It's tickling my ears. I can feel it. Nice touch. There's a lot of high frequency on some of those drums. Another nice touch. The drum composition and processing is a win, overall. Great verse from Yugen Blakrok. Like really good. There's a power there that this song needed. I'll have to see what else I can find from this artist later.
6. Jorja Smith - "I Am" Prod. Sounwave & Kendrick Lamar
Who's heavily processed vocals are those? Jorja's? Kendrick's? Is it a sample? The guitar plays really well against it. Hold on. Do you remember Travis Scott's "Drugs You Should Try It" cut from Days Before Rodeo?
The guitar heavy instrumental, the "try it if it feels right" interpolation. This is connected.
7. SOB X RBE - "Paramedic!" Prod. Sounwave, CuBeatz & DJ Dahi
That's got to be Zacari. Kendrick vocals again. This first rapper seems off beat. I'm confident he's actually from California, but I will say that he sounds like Tee Grizzley. Not because he sounds like Tee Grizzley, but because a lot of "Detroit" rappers sound like Cali, for some reason. Lol I'm going to be sick when I look up credits and find out it's Tee Grizzley under a different name. Kendrick sounds good on the hook. The beat is fun and has a nice bounce. It sounds like a simple low passed loop that allowed the producer to do their thing with the drums and have fun. Very west coast. Beat switch. Okay, beat switch is already gone. This rapper is really aggressive. He seems upset. The next rapper is smooth.
8. Ab-Soul, Anderson Paak, James Blake - "Bloody Waters" Prod. Kendrick Lamar & Sounwave
I did not expect to see James Blake and Anderson .Paak together. I can appreciate being kept on my toes from an exec production standpoint. Ab-soul does his verse justice. The delays on the ends of some of his vocals are a nice touch. That and the reverb make it more epic and fill space effectively. Another Ab-Soul verse. Nice! This artist combination came out very well.
9. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake - "King's Dead" Prod.
I can hear Mike Will and 30 Roc's influence and hands on this bet from the first drop. It's more southern trap influenced. Jay Rock slid on his verse. This is a beautiful beat switch. How dare they start with a smooth transition and then hit us over the head with the distorted bass line and reversed piano keys?! Do you hear those car crash sound effects?!
10. Zacari - "Redemption Interlude" Prod.
Okay, Zacari. Give me the vocals. I'm hoping this is a lead into the next track where he takes flight. Are these autotuned vocals Zacari's or some one else's?
11. Zacari, Babes Wodumo - "Redemption"
It sounds like someone got to the 11th track and was like "Oh, we better be more obvious with an African influence." This is smooth. What I like most about this song is that the vocals sound "imperfect." Not overly processed and electronic. I'm at the point where I've accepted that Kendrick's vocals throughout most of the songs is a given piece of this project.
12. Mozzy, Sjava, Reason - "Seasons" Prod. Kendrick Lamar & Hykeem Carter
What sample is that? I like the mix of song title, vocal sample using the title, and the vibe of the song being pensive and moody with a slow tempo. I don't know any of the artists apart from each other yet, but I'm here for the vocals and bars. Both rappers bring a style to the table that leaves you wanting more from them. What's the connection of Kendrick saying he is characters from the movie?
13. Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott - "Big Shot" Prod. Matt Schaeffer, Sounwave,CuBeatz & Cardo
Flute mode! At first, I thought Kendrick said "Juntao," but apparently it's "gentiles."I have a good reason. Rappers have used Juntao as a reference to something with a white color because I think they're connecting the "Sang" character who wore a white garment in Rush Hour. Juntao is actually Tom Wilkinson. Maybe it's a lazy reference that we've accepted. Maybe Juntao is the organization and Tom played the head of it. Maybe when I see a dopeboy pull up in an all white Bentley, I'll call him Juntao. Wait, Wait! Last thing...it all works because Juntao is a gentile. This chorus is the same as his "New Freezer" verse. This song works well with Travis Scott. He's super melodic and singing to his heart's delight.
14. Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd - "Pray For Me"
Is this a Starboy track that missed the final cut? I like this track because it feels triumphant.Sequence-wise, it sits well at the end to bring the album together.
I think Kendrick and company hit the mark with this one. It's a versatile project production-wise. They assemble some great major features as well as some lesser known acts. They also didn't put us to sleep with a bajillion fafillion tracks.
He took us from whimsical, light sounds to harder trap selections. His choice of beat makers to bring on board was quality and wise. Kendrick's mix as a featured artist is in balance. Although he is vocally present on many songs, the performances aren't overly focused on him. We also don't have a soundtrack listed with his name on every song as he goes uncredited, most of the time. I appreciate those optics.
Kendrick is reaching another level in his career. As a rapper he seems even more comfortable with stepping outside of his box with raps, cadences, and vocal performances. He shows his hand as an exec and I'm looking forward to seeing what else he can do, in that regard.