At times, the Kendrick Lamar-curated "Black Panther" album feels like a stand-alone set loosely related to the Marvel film for which it's named. However, the album is mostly a solid, entertaining listen that has its powerful moments.
There's the opener and title track, in which Lamar channels T'Challa, the Wakanda king who protects the fictional African nation in secret as Black Panther.
"King of my city, king of my country, king of my homeland/King of the filthy, king of the fallen, we living again," Lamar raps, establishing the connection between himself and the film, and making fans feel closer to the powerful figures they'll see in theaters.
Lamar is reflective, too, rapping about struggles on and off-screen, the natural and man-made tragedies, on the poignant "Pray for Me." "Who need a hero?/ You need a hero, look in the mirror, there go your hero," Lamar rhymes.
What makes "Black Panther: The Album" remarkable, though, is the layering of artists, styles, sounds — and even language. The somber "Seasons" opens with a verse from South African rapper Sjava whose bars need no translation to be felt.
Things get super impressive with "Bloody Waters." Lamar has somehow married together the "Yes, Lawd!" high energy of Anderson.Paak with the melancholy depth of English singer James Blake.
Give credit to producer Sounwave for the seamless shift in styles and beats. Other highlights include the dance-inducing Afro-beat gem, "Redemption" and "King's Dead," with Lamar, Black, Jay Rock and Future.
For some, "Black Panther The Album" will stand as just another star-stacked compilation piece. Certainly, that argument could be made. But for the ones who are excited about the film's diversity, symbolism and vision, this is exactly what they're looking for.