Marvel's endeavor to portray the African culture in the most technologically advanced nation in the cinematic universe is quintessential. From the screenplay to the CGI – and even the villains, Killmonger and Namor – they struck gold. But with the music, it isn't just perfect – they might have just outdone themselves.
While Kendrick Lamar was at the forefront of Black Panther‘s soundtrack, its sequel, Wakanda Forever, boasts its diversity with a brew of predominantly black artists. The songs mostly explore spirituality, unity, identity, and even grief. In Wakanda Forever, the fictional kingdom of Wakanda mourns the death of its King, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman, who passed away after battling colon cancer). As K. Dot said on the eponymous track Black Panther, “King don't die.”
But should they, what better way to grieve than through soulful, heartrending ballads? The soundtrack for Black Panther and Wakanda Forever is nothing but phenomenal. Here, we highlight ten tracks that stand out as best.
1. All The Stars – Kendrick Lamar, Sza
With Kendrick, the two top themes he resonates with are identity and love, much like Wakanda's King, T'Challa. Here, he explores a conflict between both and addresses faux friendships and facades while on the beat. Meanwhile, SZA delivers a beautiful hook with searingly good vocals and becomes more vulnerable in the second verse. The pop/R&B fusion sound, uncharacteristic of both artists at the time of its release, worked gracefully, blending their individual sounds and surging SZA into the limelight.
This track acts as the lead single of the Black Panther album by Kendrick Lamar. It peaked on the charts and received many nominations, including four Grammy nominations; its highly appraised video won an MTV award for Best Visual Effects. The rapper wrote an endearing message for Ryan Coogler, the movie's director, who chose him to spearhead the soundtrack project.
2. King's Dead – Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, James Blake
Despite being part of the soundtrack for the then highly anticipated Black Panther, “King's Dead” misses all the clichés and cheesiness of typical soundtrack material. It is a bop that can be enjoyed with or without context. Kendrick's hook also increases its replay value, along with the interesting medley of rap voices, notably Future's hoarse vocals, regardless of his lousy verse.
When you think it can't get any better, Kendrick delves into a rap verse that transcends the zesty vibes of the song. He disses culture and declares himself to be nothing of a savior or hero – a concept he dabbles in his album, Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers. His ending lines include, “All hail King Killmonger,” Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) being the villain in Black Panther.
3. Black Panther – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar can so easily step into the shoes of T'Challa, because he knows he's King in so many ways. He ends the track by brazenly metaphorizing himself as T'Challa.
“Black Panther” is a fantastic body of art that perfectly correlates to the movie, yet shines independently in its brilliance. In it, Lamar tackles internal and external conflict with deep, fiery bars. By the start of Black Panther, he is self-aware, King of the entire world, and enlightened about his responsibilities. He juxtaposes the past and the future (mirroring the movie, the highly advanced yet historical kingdom of Wakanda). And by the song's end, he switches the narrative and leads with the question, “What do you stand for?”
4. Pray for Me – The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar
“Pray For Me” is the third single on the Black Panther soundtrack album and sees The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar collaborating for the second time after The Weeknd's Starboy track, Sidewalks.
The Weeknd paints the narrative of a selfless hero who would do anything for love and his people, even to his soul's detriment. Kendrick continues in the same hero narrative with an even deeper sympathetic edge. He raps about societal injustice, corruption, and innocent lives lost to mass destruction. Like T'Challa, by the song's end, The Weeknd declares to live by his own law.
“Pray For Me” is one of the most popular songs on the album, with outstanding chart performance.
5. Lift Me Up – Rihanna
Just as sudden as Beyonce's Lemonade in 2016, Rihanna makes a comeback after six years with this stirring ballad, which has fans bawling their eyes out and reaffirming their love for the Barbadian singer. “Lift Me Up” is the lead single on the soundtrack album and is a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman. It expresses profound anguish and a deep desire for comfort.
Lift Me Up plays at the ending scenes of Wakanda Forever, when T'Challa's sister, Shuri, finally meets his six-year-old son named after him. Nigerian singer Tems and Ryan Coogler, the movie director, co-wrote the song, and Tems voice also features as background vocals.
6. Alone – Burna Boy
What's a Black-themed album without the self-proclaimed musical giant of Africa, Burna Boy? In “Alone,” Burna Boy beseeches to be far off from a lonesome fate, with everyone and everything he loves and trusts dead. In Nigerian pidgin English, Burna Boy describes memories as the only place safe from the despairing depth of reality – one that requires no visa for entry. His dirge resonates deeply with Wakanda Forever as they deal with the loss of the Black Panther. Through the song, it is clear that at the end of the day, memories are all that's left to fall back to.
7. No Woman, No Cry – Tems
Nigerian star Tems is also involved in the Wakanda Forever soundtrack, as she does a cover of Bob Marley's classic, “No Woman, No Cry.” Although the lyrics remain the same, the original vividly reminisces about the past, while Tems' cover is a deep-cutting dirge on loss, showing how different vocals impact the same piece of music. Tems' passionate vocals serenade on the heartfelt, cathartic track as a tribute to all the “good friends lost.”
“In this great future, you can't forget your past,” she sings, holding a torch down history while ushering us into a future filled with greater hope and light. “No Woman, No Cry” features on the three-song project for the Wakanda Forever Prologue by Ludwig Göransson.
8. Coming Back for You – Fireboy Dml
“Coming Back For You” is a song by Nigerian artist Adedamola Adefolahan, famously known as Fireboy DML, that features on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From and Inspired By. Fireboy opens with a gentle, harmonious chant backed by traditional instrumental. Like Burna Boy on the track mentioned above, “Alone,” almost everyone fears abandonment. Here, Fireboy, in his absence, prays for an abundance of good fortune for a lover and promises his return on an endearing hook. And for those like Princess Shuri, with departed loved ones (with zero chances of return), he offers inspiriting lines in the leading verse. “When the tears fall like shooting stars / Remember who you are / Just look up to the sky, you'll see.”
9. They Want It, But No – Tobe Nwigwe, Fat Nwigwe
Nigerian-American rapper Tobe Nwigwe collaborated with his wife Fat Nwigwe for this track which stood out on the album for its eccentricity and animation. Unlike the other songs on the list that weigh in on themes of grief, loss, and hope, the Nwigwes' poetic banger poses a question to copycat haters who hate to see them succeed: Why? In context, “Why the laws wanna take us under?” could also refer to Marvel's fictional US, which would do anything to grab hold of Wakanda's powerful element, vibranium.
10. Interlude – Stormzy
“You're not here and it kills me / I'm not numb to the pain.” Stormzy sings the line on the hook, in which the bluesy tone of his voice is almost as soul-cutting as the uninhibited, rousing lyrics.
As they say, there's no timeline for grief, no expiration date. The British rapper's two-minute tribute to the late T'Challa / Chadwick Boseman is one of the saddest rap songs ever written. It is riddled with extreme pain and thoughts on existentialism, evoked by deep anguish. Stormzy battles with two stages of grief; anger and, finally, acceptance. It is a true awakening back to life after being pulled by sorrow to the end of despair.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Boloere Seibidor, fondly called B.S. is a Nigerian based writer and poet. Her favorite topics to cover include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She's been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sites. When she's not writing, she's delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.