Review: Kendrick Lamar-led 'Black Panther' album has power

FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2017 file photo, Kendrick Lamar arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, Calif. Lamar curated the release, "Black Panther The Album Music from and Inspired By," performed by various artists. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

"Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired By," Various Artists (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

At times, the Kendrick Lamar-curated "Black Panther" album feels like a stand-alone set, only loosely related to the Marvel film for which it's named. But the album is a solid, entertaining listen that, in places, has its power.

There's the opener and title track, in which Lamar seems to be speaking for himself, the Compton native, while also channeling T'Challa, the Marvel character who reigns over the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and protects it in his secret role as superhero 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 perhaps making Lamar fans feel a little closer to the powerful figures they're set to see in theaters.

Lamar is reflective, too, rapping about struggles on and off-screen, the natural tragedies and the man-made, on the poignant "Pray for Me," featuring The Weeknd. "Who need a hero?/ You need a hero, look in the mirror, there go your hero," Lamar rhymes.

But neither Lamar, nor his lyrics, are what make "Black Panther The Album" remarkable. Instead, it's all the layering — of artists, styles, sounds — and even language, like on the somber "Seasons," which opens with a verse from South African rapper Sjava, whose bars need no translation to be felt.

Things get super impressive with "Bloody Waters," featuring Ab-Soul, in which Lamar has somehow married together the "Yes, Lawd!" high energy of Anderson .Paak with the melancholy depth of English singer James Blake.

The easy transition from one voice to the next is thanks in no small part to lead producer Sounwave, whose shifting beats keep ears glued to the music. An R&B opening gives way to a tough West Coast vibe on "Paramedic!" featuring hip-hop collective SOB x RBE.

And Blake is back on another jewel, "King's Dead," with Lamar, Jay Rock and Future. "The Ways" with Khalid and a singing-Swae Lee is adorable, while "Redemption," which brings together California singer Zacari and South African singer Babes Wodumo, is a dance-inducing, Afro-beat gem.

For some, "Black Panther The Album" will stand as just another star-stacked compilation piece instead of a masterful album matching the intensity of the highly anticipated film. Certainly, the argument could be made. But for the ones who are excited about the film — its diversity, symbolism, and vision — they'll find what they're looking for.

Must Read

TV executive predicts 500-show bubble destined to deflate

Aug 9, 2016

Television viewers know there's a mind-boggling array of shows to attempt to watch, but FX Networks chief executive John Landgraf predicts that change is coming

Turkish, Russian officials to discuss solution for Syria

Aug 10, 2016

Turkey's foreign minister says Turkish foreign ministry, military and intelligence officials will travel to Russia for discussions on finding a solution to the Syria conflict

Zambia voting for president amid unprecedented violence

Aug 10, 2016

Zambia, former 'model for Africa,' votes for president amid striking political violence

People also read these

Hearing on Johnny Depp domestic violence allegations delayed

Aug 9, 2016

A judge is briefly delaying a restraining order hearing involving Johnny Depp and his estranged wife because it is expected to span several days; depositions of both actors set

House Speaker Paul Ryan wins GOP nomination to run again

Aug 10, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan has defeated a longshot Republican primary challenger who had been praised by Donald Trump

Trump on sidelines as Clinton fills Olympics airtime

Aug 9, 2016

Clinton is taking advantage of the millions of Americans tuned in to NBC to watch U.S. athletes rack up medals during the Olympics in Rio

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH