Black Panther: The Album

Illustrator: Will Hanson

Kendrick Lamar’s curated soundtrack for “Black Panther” hit the top of the Billboard 200 tracks as the Marvel masterpiece set new box office records during its $201.7 million opening weekend.

The movie follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the leader of the fictional nation of Wakanda, as he tries to protect his throne and kingdom against its rivals. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler couldn’t have chosen a better person for the job of creating a soundtrack for the film.

For years, Lamar’s artistic vision has been grandiose and Afrocentric with a focus on identity and loyalty. “Black Panther: The Album” features many of the top voices in hip hop, including SZA, 2 Chainz, Khalid, Future, and The Weeknd, to name a few. While only three tracks are featured in the movie itself, the similarities in aesthetics are clear. Lamar’s home state of California is incidentally where the film’s villain grew up as an orphan on the streets of Oakland. His father’s life and death in America surrounded by institutional racism drove him to Wakanda, where he aimed to use the nation’s resources to avenge his father and liberate the oppressed through violent means.

Lamar explores the idea of conflict with injustice throughout the album, taking on the voice of both the film’s hero and villain, all the while maintaining his signature, no-holds-barred style of lyricism: “Sisters and brothers in unison, not because of me / Because we don’t glue with the opposition, we glue with peace / But still’d f*** up your organization if any beef.” Perhaps the album’s strongest element is Lamar’s overarching presence. Even on tracks in which his name is absent from the credits, his vocals are on deck, driving the Black Panther narrative forward.

It’s a vision that is uniquely Kendrick, and a work of art that can be enjoyed long after the movie credits roll.