On Friday (July 19), Disney released The Lion King: The Gift, a companion album to their remake of the classic 1994 animated masterpiece. Curated and executive produced by Beyoncé, the album was described by the superstar in a recent interview as “a love letter to Africa.”
Featuring interludes of dialogue from the film, the project ties the classic story of Simba, Mufasa and Scar to a brand-new musical narrative by artists and producers from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Cameroon — as well as the wider African diaspora — all while anchored by the vision and direction of Queen Bey.
To mark the album’s release, Billboard is ranking all 14 original tracks — not counting the set’s 13 dialogue interludes — and breaking down the contributions by everyone from Jay-Z and Donald Glover to Tierra Whack, Kendrick Lamar and more.
14. Burna Boy, “Ja Ara E”
The sole solo contribution on the album without Beyoncé at the mic, “Ja Ara E” gives Nigerian Afro-fusion singer Burna Boy a chance to shine as he warns listeners to “watch out for them hyenas.” The song’s title references a popular slang term in Yoruba, the language of the West African people of the same name, and translates loosely to “wise up.”
13. Beyoncé, “Find Your Way Back (Circle of Life)”
The theme of family runs through on “Find Your Way Back,” with Bey looking back to the lessons taught by her father as a guiding light through life’s travails. “Big big world, but you got it baby/ Find your way back, don’t let this life drive you crazy” Beyoncé croons while remembering the wisdom passed down by generations past.
12. 070 Shake & Jessie Reyez, “Scar”
This sobering, stark team-up between queer female rapper 070 Shake and Jessie Reyez tells the story of the villainous Scar’s defeat, acknowledging his betrayal of family for the temptations of greed and power from a decidedly female perspective. “Sorry, sorry/ My whole family, I/ Slayed you, betrayed you/ Don’t you grow to be like me,” 070 Shake mourns regretfully in the song’s final moments, warning listeners of the intoxicating dangers of all-consuming ambition.
11. Beyoncé, “Otherside”
With its flowing keys and cinematic strings, this lush ballad finds Bey at her most heavenly. While the track’s lyrics are relatively sparse compared to the rest of the album, the star builds on Mufasa’s promise to always be with Simba, cooing, “If it all ends and it’s over/ If the sky falls fire/ Best believe me, you will see me/ On the otherside” before switching to Swahili for the song’s emotional outro.
10. Beyoncé & Kendrick Lamar, “Nile”
Bey’s second collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, following 2016’s “Freedom,” finds the pair delivering a chanting, stream-of-consciousness refrain over spacey synths, drawing a metaphor between the mighty African river and the depths of denial. During the song’s final 30 seconds, the beat finally drops, just in time for the superstars to abruptly cut the track short and leave fans wanting more.
9. Tekno, Yemi Alade & Mr Eazi, “Don’t Jealous Me”
After introducing Chiwetel Ejiofor’s menacing Scar in a brief interlude, Nigerian trio Tekno, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi deliver this Afropop-influenced ode to envy. Exploring the film’s themes of familial resentment and power, the trio sing in multiple languages while threatening “That’s that jealousy/ Don’t you come for me” in the track’s loose, call-and-response chorus.
8. Salatiel, Pharrell & Beyoncé, “Water”
Rising Cameroonian singer Salatiel gets a major boost on this collaboration with Beyoncé and Pharrell, opening the anthemic track with a chorus backed by war cries and dancing percussion before the two superstars take over for the subsequent verses, filled with utter devotion.
7. Beyoncé, “Bigger”
Following a booming introduction by James Earl Jones as Mufasa about the universal connection found within the proverbial circle of life, Beyoncé kicks off her Gift with a heartfelt message of family, legacy and excellence to her children Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir — reminding listeners that we’re all “part of something way bigger,” as drawn-out organ and floating harmonies build to a cinematic conclusion.
6. Tiwa Savage & Mr Eazi, “Keys to the Kingdom”
Recently signed to Universal Music Group, veteran Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage takes the lead on this bouncing Afropop track that tells the story of Simba reclaiming his majesty and finding the greatness within before Mr Eazi takes over on the second verse for his second contribution to the album after popping up on “Don’t Jealous Me.”
5. Beyoncé, Shatta Wale & Major Lazer, “Already”
This dancehall-infused banger melds Ghanaian reggae artist Shatta Wale’s African roots with Bey’s confident vocals and Major Lazer’s signature production. “Be your own king/ Make nobody come rule your world,” Wale repeats on the song’s final refrain, reminding listeners to never shy away from taking up the crown.
4. Tierra Whack, Beyoncé & Moonchild Sanelly feat. Nija, “My Power”
Armed alongside viral rapper Tierra Whack, South African artist Moonchild Sanelly and Everything Is Love collaborator Nija, “My Power” is Queen Bey’s battle cry. “They’ll never take my power,” Whack and Nija intone over African chants and skittering beats before Queen Bey declares war in the second verse, proclaiming “This that war, this that bloodline/ On the front line, ready for war/ Where you gon’ run?” and echoing the Disney film’s climactic showdown between Simba and Scar.
3. Beyoncé, Jay-Z & Donald Glover, “Mood 4 Eva”
This certified banger finds Queen Bey joining forces with real-life love Jay-Z and co-star Donald Glover for a laid-back jam filled with equal parts gratitude and swagger that will have fans saying “hakuna matata.” Bey is at her most unflinchingly confident on the second verse, declaring herself “the Nala,” “Queen Sheba” and “the mother,” and even dropping her full name into the song — Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a whole unbothered mood, indeed.
2. Beyoncé, “Spirit”
As a bold summation to the 13 tracks that preceded it, “Spirit” soars even higher than it did upon its initial release, with Beyoncé capturing the titular spirit of both the film and the cultures of the African continent in her triumphant, anthemic performance. The single’s vibrant, high-fashion music video adds a magnetic visual element to the empowering lyrics, along with scenes from the film.
1. Beyoncé, SAINt JHN & Wizkid feat. Blue Ivy, “Brown Skin Girl”
Featuring New York City rapper SAINt JHN and Nigerian singer/songwriter Wizkid, standout track “Brown Skin Girl” is a joyous celebration of melanin, braids and “pretty dark skin.” With references to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland in the verses, Bey ultimately cedes the song’s final moments to daughter Blue Ivy, adorably singing along to its message of pure black girl magic.