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Critical Analysis Outline on Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther Album and the Black Panther 2018 Film

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The sounds of blackness scored something of a big-screen payback this past weekend. Black Panther, the Marvel superhero flick written and directed by Ryan Coogler and featuring an all-star cast, brought in $241 million in its opening weekend, scoring the fifth-highest domestic opening gross in history and the biggest February opening on record. Its equally ambitious plot attempts to reconcile a divide, both figurative and literal, that scattered Africans throughout the diaspora — a heroic attempt to rectify 400 years of racially fraught history, while envisioning an Afrofuturist multiverse on the way to box office domination. Even in the fictional land of Wakanda, a course correction that significant could take several sequels to rectify.

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All the symbolic weight attached to “Black Panther” — as a major Hollywood blockbuster with an African superhero, an African-American director, a majority-black cast and a vision of a highly advanced, self-sufficient, colonialism-free African kingdom — extends to “Black Panther the Album,” a collection of songs “from and inspired by” the film. That’s a loose enough rubric to give the album’s executive producers, Kendrick Lamar and the CEO of his label, Anthony Tiffith, known as Top Dawg, the leeway to build a coherent album that juggles multiple missions. After four studio albums and many other releases, Mr. Lamar is this moment’s pre-eminent rapper: furiously inventive, thoughtful, virtuosic, self-conscious, musically adventurous and driven

“Black Panther the Album” is very nearly as densely packed — with ideas, allusions and ambitions — as one of Mr. Lamar’s official solo albums. He’s superbly abetted by his frequent collaborator Sounwave (Mark Spears), the producer or co-producer on almost every track, who shifts the atmosphere constantly — often within a single song — deploying ratchety trap percussion, menacing electronics, blurry pitch-shifted samples, and even a rock guitar. “Black Panther” does include the mandatory action-film pop anthems. In “All the Stars,” Mr. Lamar raps about conflict between hopeful choruses from SZA. But the song’s release as a single has been marred by complaints that its video clip imitates, without credit, the imagery of a Liberian-British artist, Lina Iris Viktor.

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By and large, above all, it’s an affirmation of Kendrick Lamar’s powers, a fascinating entry in a discography that is inarguably the decade’s deepest. Black Panther‘s comic book mythology is goofy, but it resonates with Lamar’s own favorite themes

Like King T’Challa, King Kendrick grapples with the burdens and blessings of an exalted perch: Uneasy lies the head. Perhaps the most touching song on the album is also the most gauche, the album closer “Pray for Me,” in which Lamar pours out angst and bromides between schlocky refrains sung by the Weeknd. “I fight the world, I fight you, I fight myself/I fight God, just tell me how many burdens left.” At such moments, Lamar is something grander than a superhero: heroically human.

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