On Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars,” the first single released on TDE’s Black Panther: The Album, multiple references are made to all of the spiritual and supernatural elements of Black Panther, strung loosely together by broad lyrics of stars, love, and expectations. The newest addition to the soundtrack, titled “King’s Dead,” is quite the opposite, further complicating the purpose of Black Panther: The Album.
As vaguely tied to the universe of Black Panther as a pop hit like “All the Stars” might have been, it still brings to mind the aspect of Black Panther in which T’Challa is able to speak to all of his deceased ancestors (a.k.a. the previous Black Panther’s) and ask the only people with experience ruling the nation of Wakanda for advice on life, politics, love, fear, expectation, and everything else the young king is troubled with. The “stars” have long been a symbol to represent past ancestors and spiritual connection, and even Kendrick Lamar’s verse brings to mind the rise and weight of the new king, something that mirrors his own status and career in rap music.
“King’s Dead,” on the other hand, walks the line between “Jay Rock single” and Black Panther: The Album in such a way that it seems to tarnish both projects at once, especially since the track will appear on both the Black Panther soundtrack and Jay Rock’s upcoming album. What’s even harder to grasp than a verse from Kendrick Lamar from the perspective of the villain from Black Panther appearing on Jay Rock’s album however, is that Jay Rock and Future’s verses on the same song appear on Black Panther: The Album.
There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with the song (except for maybe Future’s high-pitched squeals), but it’s hard to understand how mentions of blacking out, blowing tons of money, having sex in cars, and lines such as “la-di-da-di-da slob on me knob” have anything to do with the story or universe of Black Panther. The only focus seems to be Kendrick’s verse, from the perspective of the main villain of the film: King Killmonger.
Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “King’s Dead”
Fuck integrity, fuck your pedigree, fuck your feelings, fuck your culture
Fuck your mom, fuck your family, fuck your drive
Fuck your land, fuck your children, fuck 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
Not your people, not your neighbor
Not your baby, not your equal
Not the title y’all want me under
All hail King Killmonger
So, is Black Panther: the Album a true companion to the film, with songs that, according to Lamar and Top Dawg, “showcase a great marriage of art and culture” wherein “teaming up with Disney, Marvel Studios and the Black Panther film makes perfect sense,” or is it a promotional and money making scheme more akin to the Fast & Furious albums to not only boost Marvel’s ticket sales but also promote TDE’s upcoming releases, such as Jay Rock’s 2018 album?
With “King’s Dead,” it seems to be pushing more towards the latter, which is fine as far as turning Black Panther: The Album into advertisements that benefit both Marvel and TDE, but knowing the kind of music and meaning that TDE’s artists have come to create on their own projects, I can’t help but be disappointed that Black Panther: The Album probably won’t be anything more than Kendrick Lamar holding a bottle of Pepsi and exhaling for the camera.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.