Black Panther is one of the most-anticipated superhero films to date, so it’s no surprise it also has an equally hyped soundtrack. This weekend will see the release of Black Panther: The Album, curated and produced by Kendrick Lamar. This was a collaboration dreamed up years in advance, but only became what it was after Lamar got a sneak preview of history in the making.
Director Ryan Coogler with Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. Image: Disney
In an interview with NPR, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler detailed how he and Lamar came together to collaborate on the film's soundtrack. Coogler said he'd been a fan of Lamar since his first mixtapes, and had touched base with him a few years ago about working together on some kind of project. The opportunity came around April 2017: Lamar had just released his latest album, DAMN, and Coogler saw an opening to get him involved in making some music for Black Panther, which Marvel supported. In order to make the offer too good to pass up, Coogler came prepared with some of the footage.
"At first, he was just going to do a few songs for the film," Coogler said. "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."
Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment producer Sounwave started developing the album in the winter, with much of the work happening during the DAMN tour, which lasted from July to early September. In fact, Sounwave said about half of "the production, the hooks, and ideas" were created while they were on tour. Sounwave - who's a comic book fan himself - added how much he admires that Marvel gave them creative control over the album's sound, feel and voice.
"I think it's only right," Sounwave says. "The movie's not set in 1910, or the 1960s when Black Panther first came out - it's set in today. There's 'today' moments happening in the movie, so we want the whole soundtrack to sound like that too. I think it was a perfect marriage for us to blend the two worlds."
Black Panther: The Album drops February 9, and the film debuts one week later on February 15.