Black Panther director Ryan Coogler tapped Kendrick Lamar and TDE Founder Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith with the daunting task of curating the highly anticipated motion picture’s soundtrack, and K. Dot delivered — putting together 14 tracks featuring some of the biggest names in music, in addition to impressive emerging artists.
Kung Fu Kenny is a composer on every track, even though he is only officially listed as a performer on five songs. Kendrick hasn’t been one to shy away from wearing the crown as king and approaching topics in his music that most wouldn’t dare. His 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly spawned an entire movement, while injecting social consciousness back into a genre that lacked direction at the top.
The 30-year-old used his platform to address social issues and get political at times on the Black Panther soundtrack. The Weeknd, Swae Lee, Future, Jorja Smith, Vince Staples, 2 Chainz, TDE compatriots SZA, Schoolboy Q and many more joined Lamar on the front lines of the project.
Let’s delve into the Compton native’s most political moments on Black Panther: The Album below. Black Panther hits theaters on Feb. 16.
1. “Sisters and brother in unison, not because of me/ Because we don’t glue with the opposition, we glue with peace/ And I’m still gon’ f— up your organization if any beef/ What do you stand for/ Are you an activist?/ What are your city plans for?” – “Black Panther”
Kendrick sets the tone for what’s to come on the album with a brash verse from the perspective of T’Challa — the film’s main character and the alter ego of Black Panther. Lamar makes the seamless transition, as an artist who has referred to himself as King Kendrick many times before. The “Alright” artist reflects on his losses, but truly believes the only way to achieve peace is through uniting citizens, rather than the use of violence and power.
2. “F— your land, f— your children, f— your wives/ Who am I? Not your father, not your brother/ Not your reason, not your future/ Not your comfort, not your reverence, not your glory/ Not your heaven, not your angel, not your spirit/ Not your message, not your freedom.” – “King’s Dead” feat. Jay Rock, Future & James Blake
K. Dot continues his lyrical evisceration of his opposition. “King’s Dead” is a star-studded affair produced by Mike WiLL Made-it, but Kendrick’s star still shines the brightest. It can be inferred this verse comes on behalf of Kilmonger, the antagonist played by Michael B. Jordan. Kenny takes aim at T’Challa, as Kilmonger looks to inspire the people of Wakanda to follow his lead.
3. “I’m tryna fight back tears, flood on my doorsteps/ Life a livin’ hell, puddles of blood in the streets/ Shooters on top of the building, government aid ain’t relief.” – “Pray for Me” feat. The Weeknd?
There are parallels that can be drawn from the new life of the Wakanda nation in the fictional film to that of the African-American community. The TDE creative calls out the current government aid system in America, as its outdated philosophies are clearly flawed and have been for some time. An emotional Lamar voices his displeasure with America’s systematic social structure and lack of opportunities to thrive.
4. “Mass destruction and mass corruption/ The souls are sufferin’ men/ Clutchin’ on deaf ears again, rapture is comin’/ It’s all prophecy and if I gotta be sacrificed for the greater good/ Then that’s what it gotta be” – “Pray for Me” Feat. The Weeknd?
Corruption has plagued government and power from the beginning of time and is still prevalent today. Kendrick draws those same comparisons and even offers himself up to be sacrificed for the greater good of our society. He previously teased this ideology to close out the second verse of “m.A.A.d. City” in 2012 when he rapped, “I made allegiance that made a promise to see you bleedin’/ You know the reasons but still will never know my life/ Kendrick a.k.a. ‘Compton’s Human Sacrifice.'”
5. “Born warrior, lookin’ for euphoria, but I don’t see it/ I don’t feel it, I’m paraplegic, tapped in when I’m maxed in/ Comp-Town with the MAC 10s and the pumps in the background.” – “King’s Dead” feat. Jay Rock, Future & James Blake
Kendrick reflects on the energy he was born with in search of excitement on earth. That passion is quickly stripped away because of the many oppressive social constructs currently in place, which forces him to feel paralyzed mentally as he gets older. He channels his reality of Compton, while referring to the gun violence that has destroyed generations in the city.
6. “F— y’all want from me, y’all don’t own money/ Y’all don’t want from me, y’all wanna die in the chase of things/ We all gon’ die and break the thing.” – “Opps” feat. Vince Staples & Yugen Blakrok
The “Moneytrees” artist has grown tired of the famous lifestyle, as friends and family just want him to keep giving, until there is nothing left. He hypothesizes that America has brainwashed citizens to the point they are mentally enslaved to the thought of dying in pursuit of materialistic items. Kenny believes this thought process will eventually backfire by killing off the influence of artists and undo all the proper steps made in recent history for a better future by Black America.