By Daniel Paiz
The hype is real, and fans of this character get a tease of the film with the album release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This also marks a return for “A Week’s Worth album review” series, as this project has reinvigorated one’s ears and mind. There are some stark contrasts between this 19-song project and the first soundtrack spearheaded by Kendrick Lamar and company. The largest being there’s no Kendrick Lamar; however, if you’re familiar with Ludwig Goransson than you should be plenty excited for this compilation.
If you’re unfamiliar with Goransson, you’ve likely heard his work with some guy named Donald Glover, and then his work on a film series related to boxing that’s released the past couple of years, Adonis something. This guy does his homework, and he also brings in people that he knows are experts in their field and incorporates what they can do.
This project is the result of this dedicated effort mixed with various stages of grief experienced during loss.
Grief and its various directions
While respect to T’Challa/Chadwick Boseman is present, there’s two colliding forces on this project: how Wakanda is processing life after T’Challa, and how Namor and the people of Talokan plan to emerge. What’s hard about analyzing these songs is mostly not knowing what happens in the film at the time of publishing this article. There are tracks that feel like the listener is witnessing a particular event in Wakanda, or an introduction of sorts of Namor/Talokan. Others are building tension towards different bits of action. Still others are vague enough to be songs played during the credits or leading up to the highly coveted mid-credit scene and post-credit scene.
For example, “Pantera” featuring Aleman and Rema is the first track that brings about where will it be placed. Here’s the track in case you haven’t heard this magic yet:
My first response when taking notes during the listen through was:
Talokan on the move, Namor’s forces are headed out, placement is happening, and things are escalating. Wakanda isn’t staying static though, as Shuri, Mbaku and others are strategizing. Rapid fire verses are creating an anticipation of sorts. It almost feels like an initial conflict or battle staged and ready to go.
The thing about tracks like this is it’s either going to be in a fairly memorable scene (something similar mentioned above), or it might make the end credits. Somehow not every track of the 19 on the compilation will make it to the film, but there are ones like this where it’s questionable how it could not make the cut. There aren’t many tracks that seemingly fit both sides equally. Oddly enough maybe that’s why this might miss the cut.
Another track that feels like a no brainer to make the film but for who knows what reason might not would be this Snow Tha Product and E-40 collaboration:
My initial reaction:
The first rap verses encountered on this project, started off courtesy of the super underrated Snow Tha Product. Really hoping this is another track in Talocan, and not a credits song. A great combo of Black and Brown culture, this track could be used when Namor and Shuri/Mbaku or whoever else speak towards the end and hopefully resolving whatever issues have arisen.
Listening to this track again, I’m really hoping my gut feeling that this is a credits song isn’t true. Or, somehow even worse, that it’s used for ten seconds, and an “IYKYK” moment happens for those of us waiting for this track (If You Know, You Know for those not into acronym/text slang).
Grief and Emergence
The traditional stages of grief are considered to be five stages, though updated ideas about this state it’s really seven. Regardless of the number of stages, loss and pain are the focal points. The amount of emotion exuding everywhere is evident in how engaged the artists are. Paying tribute but also contributing to a new narrative is a fine line that’s balanced well. Another thing to keep in mind is the grief mentioned is being interrupted from the newcomers.
Burna Boy’s “Alone” sounds like a track that wholly captures that mixture of sorrow, and isolation, and processing of everything going on. Burna’s lyrics are reflective but full of action, almost like the lines are trekking along as mental steps shuffle about. Listening to the song will give some better insight:
Don’t let me go down, don’t let me go down
As far as I can see, na the memories
Dem dey carry me from reality
No require visa; I have been
Very quietly dyin’
And I need you to remind me whyAlone by Burna Boy
Give me the strength to keep fightin’
‘Cause I no fit trust anybody
Na hin make I no fit shout
There are a number of places one can dive a bit deeper in this song. The chorus somehow feels heavier each go round, and the gravity of grief grows. The bridge, however, takes us specifically into what that mental and emotional journey is. There’s the clever bit about not needing a Visa for this trip, perhaps a bit of light humor to deflect how this character deals with being distraught.
I split up the bridge into these two parts because as there is a processing of pain and realizing that this loss is permanent, there’s also a call to act. Moving through the pain is really the only way out, and I picture Ramonda and Shuri in this song. These two strong, powerful women having to shoulder the weight of Wakanda now without help from T’Challa is tough; having outside forces feeling like they can be opportunistic after this tragedy is tougher.
That’s something that feels like an undercurrent in both the film previews and the music: Women are carrying both narratives, front and center. Perhaps director Ryan Coogler is being very intentional with this. So many communities rely on roles that women consistently play, ones of support and care. It requires help from everyone, and that lack of help from men due to either being taken (T’Challa) or engaging in conflict (Namor, Mbaku, Agent Ross) unevenly shifts that weight. Yet again.
The switch from Kendrick Lamar and TDE-affiliated acts to Ludwig Goransson and Def Jam was a fairly smooth one for Wakanda Forever. A big reason for that is recognizing the needed shifts in tone. These two films are in different places with fairly different stakes. The sequel looks to both expand our exposure to Wakanda, and introduce a rival nation in Talokan (which is a different kind of nation in more ways than one). Shifting into R&B, Afrobeat, Reggaeton, and more does justice to both opposing forces.
The listener’s journey is one through both Wakanda and Talokan, but also a walk amongst stages of grief. Denial, pain, reconstruction and more appear on this first four or so tracks; then, five through 11 are an interweaving of nations. 12 until close is more of a focus on Talokan, though Wakanda at times feels present. There’s so much to listen to over and over again, which is the best. The fact it’s a soundtrack for a very anticipated sequel adds to the likeability factor.
Check out all of the artists you aren’t familiar with and go down various rabbit holes. Foudeqush, Rema, Aleman, and the group of artists on “Love and Loyalty (Believe)” and “Jele” are my starting points. Check out Snow Tha Product, Stormzy, and Burna Boy if you haven’t. Tems is likely going to skyrocket after this movie and album too. Thanks to Ludwig, Def Jam, and all of the creatives on this project. Black Panther Wakanda Forever is going to be on repeat for the foreseeable future.
P.S: “Inframundo” and “No Digas mi Nombre” are absolutely must listen tracks, do not miss them.
P.P.S: I can’t list any other tracks now; I’ll end up just listing the whole project. Hurry, go listen before I do that!