Kendrick Lamar said it best on the opening track of the soundtrack to Black Panther: “Sisters and brothers in unison, not because of me / Because we don’t glue with the opposition.”
The sticking point across the entire production of Black Panther is unity. The making of the film, comics, and music represent a mass confluence of mainstream artistic participation.
The soundtrack, curated by Lamar and released on February 9, mixes hip hop, rap, and R&B. It features SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Khalid, The Weeknd, Future, and Lamar himself, among many others. According to Complex, Lamar decided to produce the soundtrack upon watching scenes from the movie.
At first glance, the reason for the total cultural push behind Black Panther seems obvious. It’s the first mainstream superhero movie with a Black protagonist, taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has been meticulously crafted with numerous blockbuster hits. The film’s namesake, the supremely cool T’Challa, the Black Panther — played by the previously relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman — is a warrior and leader unlike any other.
The production became something of a star-scape of world-class Black talent. Aside from Lamar and the soundtrack artists, the film stars Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o alongside Boseman, and it is directed by Ryan Coogler, the director of 2015’s incredible Creed, which also starred Jordan.
Preliminary reviews are glowing. The film has a 97 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising its direction, performances, and screenplay for delivering a charismatic and powerful movie. The soundtrack has been described as “beautiful, propulsive, and spacious” by Rolling Stone, which noted the significance of many of the lyrics: they allude to “age-old African diasporic dreams and 21st Century politics.”
The film is a symbol of empowerment for a marginalized group. Hopefully, the movie will succeed in provoking a thoughtful discussion of racism and racial identity in our collective cultural conversation.