By Dan Guarino
Elm Staff Writer

‘“Black Panther” has quickly become a cultural phenomenon, which is especially impressive considering it has only been out for a week. It’s also a Marvel movie, and they make everything from passably mediocre to pretty great action films, so it’s iffy on whether or not the hype is justified. When a rap icon like Kendrick Lamar signed on to score the whole movie, people breathed sighs of relief.

“At first he was just going to do a few songs for the film,” Ryan Coogler, director of “Black Panther” said to NPR, “Then he came in and watched quite a bit of the movie, and the next thing I know, they were booking a studio and they were going at it.”

Released one week before the movie, the soundtrack is titled, “Black Panther: The Album.” That alone tells you something about the project: Lamar, the creative director, wants you to know the soundtrack is a cohesive project in its own right and, to his credit, it feels like that. While the album ranges from trap, to pop, to trippy acid jazz like you might find off “To Pimp a Butterfly,” still keeps an element of cohesion in its thematic storytelling, and colorful and punchy production.

“X”:  From the dissonant, plucky guitar loops to the unmistakable triplet hi-hats, this is a trap song throughout. One with some really astonishing polish, though. It’s sort of like when a five star hipster restaurant does, “their version” of grilled cheese. The components are the same, but there’s that extra effort and quality that makes all the difference; the verses are thematic, witty, and flow nicely. The base is particularly cool too, especially the way it aggressively pans left and right, making for a very atmospheric track.

“Opps”: You can tell it’s Vince Staples before he even shows up. His trademarked electro, four-four beat driven production comes with him. Honestly, the track is sort of stilted, suffering from the same problems as Big Fish Theory in the lack of synthesis between the electronic and rapping sounds. Yet, when Yugen Blakrok comes on there is some real energy, she kills it. Her voice and flow really compliment the synths, I would honestly say to give this track a listen just for her.

“The Ways”: Khalid leads this track, and his harmonized vocals are honestly really nice over the upbeat, retro melodies in this song. It sounds like a drum machine in a hawaian 7-Eleven, and I mean that in a good way.

Overall Lamar delivered something unique, and well crafted. It’s not everyday an original soundtrack charts on iTunes. Would I say it’s as cohesive, or takes as many risk as his commercial albums? Not really, but that’s what it set out to achieve. “Black Panther: The Album” hits all the go-to notes for a soundtrack, but it hits them well, and it remains notable and unique amidst movies which all use the same plastic flavored Imagine Dragons song in their trailers. Whether or not this means the movie is any good is anyone’s guess, but even if it’s bad, I hope people can look back on the soundtrack as something culturally relevant, well made, and something that can shake your car.

The Elm

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