Driving Black Panther’s story forward is a hard-hitting soundtrack from Kendrick Lamar. Through collaborations with both established rappers (2 Chainz, Travis Scott) and up-and-comers (SOB X RBE, Saudi), Compton rapper Lamar spreads a message both of black power and of cultural inclusivity. “King of the past, present, future, my ancestors watchin’,” Lamar raps on the album’s title track.
Praising both himself and his people, Lamar writes that not just that there will one day be a black future, but that blackness always was and ever shall be. Equality is not a new concept, and strong role models were always present. Likewise, Black Panther is a mainstream film that finally offers a chance for African-Americans to celebrate their heritage without being judged for it. This is not a film made for white people that African-American viewers can also take part in. Instead, the tables are turned and black audiences are the tastemakers.
But Black Panther is not just a film about black rights. It’s about equal rights. It encourages audiences — regardless of race or age or gender — to go out and be the change they want to see. Ghandi would be proud.
Lamar goes on in the same song to rap about the people who change the world, his voice like an operatic recitative, carrying his lesson across in constant, hammering intensity. “King of the optimistics and dreamers that go and get it,” declaring himself the leader of a generation of doers. His people are not a nameless, faceless conglomerate, but a diverse collection of creators and thinkers who aim high and move with purpose. And this is the key message Black Panther aims to get across: if you take away nothing else, know that you need to work hard and work together to accomplish anything.
Seems simple enough to me.