Babes Wodumo on Her Appearance for 'Black Panther: The Album': 'I'm So Happy. It's Such a Privilege'

Babes Wodumo
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Babes Wodumo attends the Black Panther movie premiere at Montecasino on Feb. 16, 2018 in Fourways, South Africa. 

Black Panther has shattered weekend box-office records, so it’s no surprise that its soundtrack also bows at the top of the albums chart this week. Helmed by Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther: The Album debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (154,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Feb. 15, according to Nielsen Music).

One person who still can’t believe the success is soundtrack contributor Babes Wodumo. Featured on the track “Redemption," the South African singer (real name Bongekile Simelane) had never heard of the Black Panther comics. She had never even met Kendrick Lamar. In a case of kismet, the 23-year-old is now garnering global attention. Calling from Durban, South Africa, the artist talks about how she landed the hit soundtrack, her genre of gqom music and what she wants to tell Kendrick (when she finally meets him).

How did you get on the Black Panther soundtrack?

Well, they [someone from Kendrick Lamar’s management team] emailed me. They said they need me for the Kendrick Lamar album. I was like, “No. This was a lie.” As the time went on, I was like, “Oh my word. Is this happening?”

Had you worked with Kendrick Lamar previously, or was this totally out of the blue?

No. I haven’t. I was so surprised. I’m a girl from Africa. My genre is gqom music. They call me gqom queen. I was too shocked. Kendrick Lamar and me? Hip-hop and gqom?! What? I’m so happy. It’s such a privilege and an honor.

Working on a soundtrack, did you watch Black Panther in advance? Were you a fan of the character from comics?

I didn’t know about the movie or anything. I didn’t know anything. They told me it was about Black Panther. Like, I didn’t know. On Thursday, I’m gonna view it. I was like, “Aye man. Why me?” I think it was favor from God. I think God chose me. Of all people in Africa, of all girls in Africa, he chose me. That makes me want to rejoice and want to say, “Thank you God” and praise him every day.”

How was the song recorded?

They sent me the beat that day.

For those who may not be familiar with your music Stateside, when did you start recording?

2015. I was a dancer, actually. I used to dance for gqom artists. Everything happened quickly. People fell in love with Babes-- with my music, with my dance. I’m so in love with what I do. I’m not doing it for money. I’m doing it because I love it. It’s my passion.

How would you describe gqom for those that don’t know the genre?

Gqom music is EDM from Africa. It’s raw. It’s a sound that you’ll never hear. It’s so fresh. It’s a youth genre. People here in Africa, they’ll tell you, “Ah! You know Babes Wodumo? The Gqom Queen.” I broke the sound. I broke everything. That’s why I’m so passionate. You’ll see. You’ll see what is gqom. If I come there, I’ll show you what is Babes Wodoma and what is gqom.

On that note, when can we hear more of you?

I’m in the studio right now working on my second album, Gqom Queen Volume 2. I’ll travel a lot this year. I’m going overseas everywhere. It’s my wish to see Kendrick Lamar. You know, face-to-face. That is my dream. I haven’t seen him.

What will you say when you see him?

Just see him. Hug him. You know, I need advice in everything from him. I just wanna ask him, “How do you do it? How do you do it?” As artists, we have a lot of challenges. You can’t speak to whoever. I just want to ask him, “How do you do it?”