After the major release of Marvel’s Black Panther, rapper and producer Kendrick Lamar released Black Panther: The Album—Music from and Inspired By, which reached an international audience because of its diverse collaborations and eclectic sounds.
The album features American artists such as five-time Grammy nominated artist SZA, as well as internationally acclaimed musicians Yugen Blakrok and Babes Wodumo. This is Kendrick’s eighth studio album, following the release of his 2017 album, DAMN.
The album opens with the track titled “Black Panther” that has Lamar rapping over a solemn piano backdrop from the mindset of the lead heroic character in the film, T’Challa, opening with the lines “King of my city/king of my country/king of my homeland.”
Tracks such as “All The Stars” feature R&B star SZA and the track “X” features rappers 2 Chainz and Saudi from South Africa. These massive collaborations give the album a tremendous level of variety as well as diversity of artistry.
The album also sees a great deal of South African music integrated into the hip-hop soundtrack, more than is usual for most North American audiences. The upbeat track “Opps” features American rapper Vince Staples alongside Johannesburg native Yugen Blakrok who quickly raps the lines “What you standing on the side for/ Roar like a lioness/punch like a cyborg”.
After the first five energized tracks, the album dives into the alternative R&B-inspired “I Am,” sung by UK artist Jorja Smith, where she sings over a sombre beat, “When you know what you got/Sacrifice ain’t that hard.”
Kendrick’s signature hip hop style shines through the track “King’s Dead” with the accompaniment of several artists such as Jay Rock, Future and James Blake.
The house music inspired track “Redemption” features more South African artists such as Babes Wodumo and Zacari, who effortlessly lend their vocals to the backdrop of illustrious rhythms and tones. The track then transitions into the R&B tune “Seasons,” featuring Soweto artist Sjava who raps the first verse in the Zulu language, one of the 13 official languages of South Africa.
On the last two tracks, titled “Big Shot” and “Pray for Me,” Lamar collaborates with major North American artists Travis Scott and The Weeknd. “Pray For Me” pays homage to the main heroic characters of the film—T’Challa and Jabari—recognizing the fact that loneliness is a major factor when it comes time to defeat the enemy, rapping “Who gon’ pray for me/Take my pain for me?”
As a result of fusing African house and rap coupled with Lamar’s distinctive hip hop style, this album is able to connect to an international fan base by shining light upon international artists. Although the album is filled with a collection of sounds ranging from South African house to alternative R&B, Lamar doesn’t seem to be striding away from his natural style and always lets hip hop fans know that he is constantly at the top of his game.