Black Panther’s Director Reveals How He Got Kendrick Lamar To Curate The Soundtrack

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In less than 48 hours, The Black Panther soundtrack will be released (February 9). The TDE/Interscope Records soundtrack tracklist boasts new music from label acts Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, SZA, and Ab-Soul, as well as other popular acts including Future, 2 Chainz, Travi$ Scott, Vince Staples, and Anderson .Paak. Perhaps more notably, the project puts Kendrick and mentor Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith at the helm as curators. While Top has launched one of music’s most exciting labels of the 2010s, it welcomes Lamar’s care to Rap peers on a compilation companion to Marvel’s film.

Heads witnessed some of that yesterday in the “All The Stars” music video from Kendrick and SZA. In addition to that song, Kenny and The Weeknd’s “Pray For Me” and Jay Rock, Lamar, and Future’s “King’s Dead” have also been released in the last month.

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Black Panther director Ryan Coogler tells NPR’s David Greene how the partnership came to be. “I’ve been a massive Kendrick [Lamar] fan ever since I first heard him, since his mixtapes, and I’ve been trying to track him down,” said the director, known for his past work Fruitvale Station and Creed. “Eventually I caught up with him a couple years ago — first with Anthony ‘Top Dawg’ Tiffith, who runs his label, and then later on sat down with him and Kendrick and just spoke about how much his music affected me. He talked about my movies that he had seen, and we said if the opportunity comes, we’d love to work with each other on something.”

That discussion was revisited after Coogler had some footage to show TDE’s founder and an artist with a stake in the Los Angeles, California-based imprint. At that point, K-Dot had wrapped his now-Grammy Award-winning DAMN. album, and was gearing up for the road. Marvel, whose early 2000s films have launched hit songs from Nickelback and Dashboard Confessional, among others, was reportedly on board with Coogler’s vision. In the late ’90s, Marvel developed the Blade franchise, which had a series of soundtracks that famously featured M.O.P., Gang Starr, Mos Def, WC, and Kool Keith.

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After catching the vision, the Compton, California superstar agreed. “At first, [Kendrick Lamar] was just going to do a few songs for the film, and then he came in and watched quite a bit of the movie, and the next thing I know, they were booking a studio and they were going at it,” the director reveals.

Coogler also makes sure to credit one of TDE’s in-house producers. And hats off to Sounwave, who’s producing, and Ludwig [Göransson], who was able to manipulate the score to incorporate some of those songs and weave them in and out of the orchestral stuff that he was already doing,” he says. “I can’t wait for people to hear the music on that album, man.”

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Sounwave tells NPR’s Sidney Madden that half of the album’s writing (as far as Kendrick Lamar’s pen) took place on 2017’s DAMN. Tour. Also a Hub City native, Sounwave has been tied to Kenny’s music since 2009’s The Kendrick Lamar EP, and gone on to co-create “B*tch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “m.A.A.d City,” and “FEEL.,” among others. He has since formed Digi+Phonics with Dave Free, Tae Beast, and Willie B. Sounwave believes the soundtrack is a fit. “The movie’s not set in 1910, or the 1960s when Black Panther first came out — it’s set in today. There’s ‘today’ moments happening in the movie, so we want the whole soundtrack to sound like that too.”

The film opens one week after the soundtrack releases, on February 16.