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Lamar shows his versatility on ‘Black Panther’

Dylan Martin, Page Designer

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Kendrick Lamar doesn’t take a break. He basically drops an album every other year, and in his off years, he puts out less official work. In this off year, instead of “Untitled Unmastered,” a previously released B-side compilation which featured some of his darkest beats yet, we have the “Black Panther” soundtrack. And while Kendrick may play a smaller role on some tracks, his voice is all over this album.

He did a lot of work in curating the talent brought to this explosive experience are there certainly some bangers. But with Lamar, you know there’s going to be a lot of R&B influence on there as well. Either side of the fence you land on, there is a lot to appreciate on this album.

The opening track, while not exceptional, sets the tone and lets the anticipation set in. Basically the ‘Black Panther’ theme song, Lamar’s lyrics draw parallels between his own life and that of T’Challa’s, the titular Black Panther. Based on these lyrics, one would almost believe Lamar is Black Panther. After all, kinghood has always been a favored theme of his. Following this track is a smoothly delicious song called “All the Stars” featuring SZA that is sure to do better on the Billboard charts than any of the other singles from the album.

My ears don’t really perk up until the ScHoolboy Q’s song simply titled ‘X’ starts. Lamar bursts forth with an immediately catchy chorus that one can’t help but sing along to. Who would have thought that Disney would release a soundtrack with a song that repeats the lyric “f*** the place up” over and over again.

As the tracks continue, “The Ways” is a decent love song, but not one of my favorites, but I will say it often gets stuck in my head. “Opps” follows with pretty standard fare from Vince Staples, but nothing amazing as far as his work goes. With how often they say “Superman” in the song, I wonder if they know it’s a Marvel movie? Jorja Smith slows it down a touch with some deep-set autotune and even deeper emotion on “I Am.” If that’s your thing, this certainly isn’t a bad track.

But when “Paramedic” follows, I get real fired up. They go old school on this one, it feels like a solid 90s-influenced west coast banger. I’ve got to say, it’s probably my favorite track on the album and I could just listen to it on repeat for the rest of the year. The track that follows, “Bloody Waters” is a bit slower, but is also pretty spectacular. Great lyrics and good flow that leads directly into “King’s Dead” without a pause.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably have heard this Jay Rock hit by now. It definitely hits hard and has another great chorus from Lamar. Towards the end, the track switches gears and really gets brutal with Lamar hitting as fierce as he gets. Most definitely one of the best songs on the album, this one is about getting in the mind of T’Challa’s nemesis, Killmonger. It definitely gets the message across with his lyrics “not your father, not your brother, not your reason, not your future, not your comfort, not your reverence, not your glory” and so on. It certainly evokes empathy for the villain of the film, which is not always an easy feat.

I will say the first half of the album is probably better, but the songs towards the end have their good qualities as well. “Redemption” is the most fun song on the album, I can’t help but like it. “Big Shot” sounds like it could be a B-side from “DAMN.” and you won’t hear me complain about its presence. The final track, titled “Pray for Me,” gives us more thematic material continued from “DAMN.” It seems like typical fair from the Weeknd to me, but it is a pretty decent song and has been doing well on the charts, though it is not unique as far as his work goes.

While it may not be as driven as Lamar’s usual output, this album helps prove that Kendrick is one of the most versatile rappers out there. It doesn’t have the magnitude of his usual work, the ‘Black Panther’ soundtrack nearly gives us a full-fledged Kendrick Lamar album on his off-year, and I imagine that fact is comforting to a lot of his fans, myself included.

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Lamar shows his versatility on ‘Black Panther’