Black Panther: Wakanda Forever gives the audience closure. It is sombre and splits itself into different, unique parts…
By Hope Ibiale
A few weeks ago, movie lovers were presented with the second installation of one of the most successful MCU movies, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The movie, a continuation of the first installation released in 2018, follows the people of Wakanda who have recently lost their ruler, King T’Challa played by Chadwick Boseman. Without a king, Wakanda faces threats from the outside world. Like the first Black Panther movie, the new superhero movie is accompanied by a 20-track soundtrack titled, as the film itself, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Compared with the Black Panther album, Wakanda Forever is cut from a different cloth. Wakanda Forever had no guest curator. The project was helmed by the movie’s director, Ryan Coogler, and famous music composer, Ludwig Göransson. According to Göransson, the album was recorded for over 2,500 hours across three continents.
For the project to honestly portray the different cultures in the movie, Göransson spent time in Lagos and Mexico, familiarising himself with the local music, instruments, producers, and artistes. Also, this album is lengthier than the previous one and accommodates more artistes and producers from countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico, etc.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever gives the audience closure; it is sombre and splits itself into different, unique parts. Some parts of the album pay homage to Chadwick Boseman; they remind us of loss and try to make us let go of the hurt. The album helps us to “burn our mourning clothes,” like Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) says in the movie.
The movie’s last scene, where Princess Shuri burns her mourning clothes and Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” starts to play in the background, improves the emotional depth of the film. Using Rihanna’s song for the closing scene was a good decision because it gave the audience and the cast a little closure. It also ushers in a surprising light at the end of the tunnel. Other songs on the album, like Burna Boy’s “Alone,” amplify scenes like Wakanda’s preparation for battle scenes.
When Burna Boy sings, “It’s just another night, just another fight for my life. It’s alright because everything dies, nobody know why,” the lyrics blend perfectly with Shuri’s emotions at that moment. Here, Shuri struggles to lead her people to the battlefield. She is surrounded by allies but with no family by her side. Hence, she feels alone.
The Wakanda Forever album begins with Rihanna leading with “Lift me up.” Here, she offers her first song after a five-year hiatus from the music industry. The song, which Tems co-wrote, is a sombre tune. Rihanna sings about getting warmth and safety from her loved ones. She sings, “Burning in a hopeless dream, hold me when you go to sleep.
Keep me in the warmth of your love.” Shakers and log drums introduce listeners to the next song tagged, “Love & Loyalty (Believe).” Sonically, this track sounds different from the previous song. South African artistes DBN Gogo, Sino Msolo, Kamo Mphela, and Young Stunna, join the track to sing about love and loyalty. They chant energetically, “I believe in love and loyalty,” over the heavy log drums.
“Alone” sees Burna Boy singing about the weariness loss brings. When Burna Boy sings, “When you feeling like you’re falling and you can’t find nothing to hold on to…” he describes the emotional state of Wakanda citizens after Namor attacked their land and murdered their queen. However, they draw strength from themselves and fight for their lives, “Give me the strength to keep fighting.” Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “No Woman, No Cry,” comes next.
The song, performed by Tems, was released as the lead single preceding the project and featured in the movie’s official trailer. But this is scarcely the only time artistes have remade or sampled the classic song. Artistes like Nina Simone, Fugees, Hugh Masekela, Pearl Jam, and many others have released its covers over time. “No Woman, No Cry” inspires people to have faith no matter the circumstances. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the song encourages people who have lost someone to heal and move on. When Tems sings, “So while I’m gone, everything’s gonna be alright,” it sounds like a message from the late Chadwick Boseman to his people.
Mexican artistes, Vivir Quitana, and Mare Advertencia Lirika, come in on the next track, “Arboles Bajo El Mar,” which translates to “Trees under the Sea.” With “Arboles Bajo El Mar,” we get transported into another world. It introduces us to the underwater world where Namor was born. This song tells the story of the Talokans. From Namor’s birth, “I sowed all my seeds in trees under the sea,” to the wars that shaped Namor’s mindset, “So many wounds that fester from so many violent acts,” Quintana and Lirika’s haunting voices, coupled with the shakers, drums, and Mare’s bars, give the song an eerie feeling.
Some of the songs on the project have no tie to the movie. “Con La Brisa” is one example. Foudeqush and Göransson offer a bland song here. Perhaps, “Con La Brisa” would have worked better as a solo song, but on this project, it leaves no impression and doesn’t add anything to the film.
“La Vida ” is a boppy tune that sees Snow Tha Product and E-40 bounce off each other’s deliveries. Here, the artistes sing about protecting their homes and living their best life. Now, “La Vida” connects to the movie’s theme of protecting one’s home regardless of external threats. Product sings, “Here, life is enjoyed, here I am here to stay/This land is not for sale, I die for it.” “La Vida ” taps from the same energy in “Love & Loyalty (Believe),” and it is the perfect song to sway listeners from the solemnity of the previous songs.
The death of King T’Challa makes Shuri doubt the existence of the spiritual realm, and has her consumed by a need to seek revenge. Most times, loss robs us of our beliefs and leaves us naked and numb. With Stormzy’s “Interlude,” we get a glimpse of Shuri’s pain. Stormzy sings, “Pain in my heart but I put it in the grave. Pain in my soul but I put it in the grave.”
On “Coming Back for You,” Fireboy DML gives a comforting performance. After accepting the pain in “Interlude,” we begin to heal in “Coming Back for You.” The song compliments the scene where the battle is over, everyone is happy, and Riri (Dominique Thorne) leaves Wakanda. This song is also a promise from everyone lost.
However, the last minutes of the song could have been done better. The song fades out with the popular Nigerian worship song, “Emi Na Re Oluwa (Here I am, Lord).” Why didn’t the producer use another song? Göransson should have left the song without adding those distracting vocals at the end. It is a terrible attempt at giving the song an extra “African feel.”
Tobe and Fat Nwigwe feature on the next track, “They Want it, but No.” Tobe and Fat pay attention to navigating the beat and finding words that flow with the fast-paced beat. On “Laayli’kuxa’ano’one,” All Mayan Wink joins forces with other rappers to deliver a message wholly rendered in the Mayan language.
On “Limoncello,” American rapper, Future, and OG DAYV, brag about money and their women. The song falls under those that have no seeming connection to the album. Future sings, “Take my advice and stay far away from drama.” The song and the movie move in opposite directions.
CKay deploys the same tactics found in his debut album, Sad Romance. The song starts with the oja taking the lead, and as we dive into the song, the instrument pulls your mind back to Igbo language home movies where the oja is consistently played. The oja is a part of the Igbo culture, and I found its infusing into the song a brilliant idea.
Unlike his debut album, CKay reminisces on the moments spent with his loved ones. In “Anya Mmiri ” which translates to “teary eye,” CKay and the PinkPantheress bear their emotions for all to see. They sing, “How could I forget you when you build a house for my mind? It’s you and me, but all I have is memories of you.”
“And I can never give up, I got the tunnel vision and I’m on a mission,” opens up “Wake Up,” a song that features Rema and Bloody Civilian, and one that explains how artists inspire others to meet their issues head-on. The Dancehall track sees Rema unleashing his lyrical beast and his bragging rights. He sings, “I talk say na me be the future oya tell me the person for this generation wey dey bridge the gap.”
The next track, “Pantera,” which translates to “Panther,” is a song dedicated to the strength of the Black Panther. Aleman raps, “I take out the claws and always fight like a panther. I defend what I have left, I don’t think they can beat me.” “Pantera” is an ode to the Black Panther and the underwater kingdom “Oh, many judge me evil oh, just because I’m from Mexico. Oh, they don’t know my town is magical.”
DBN Gogo, Sino Msolo, Kamo Mphela & Young Stunna return with “Jele,” which translates to “Signs” in Zulu. In this song, they preach about forgiveness and discuss the disunity between the Talokans and the Wakadans. “Inframundo” sees Blue Rojo give an emotional performance centred around loss. This song is for everyone in the movie because they have all experienced loss. It is for the Wakandans who lost their king, Shuri who lost her family, and Namor who lost his mother and a handful of Talokans.
The next song, “No Digas Mi Nombre,” is centred around Namor, the king of the Talokans. While introducing himself to Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri, Namor says, “My friends call me K’uk’ulkan, but my enemies call me Namor.” Hence, when Calle x Vida says, “Do not say my name, leave it to my friends,” he makes reference to this scene.
The song also focuses on how Namor defends his kingdom. The spoken word performance by Guadalupe De Jesus Poot on “Mi Pueblo,” brings us closer to the end of the project and prepares us for Rihanna’s delivery on “Born Again.” On this record, Rihanna sings about accepting loss and realising that death is indeed not the end. We carry everyone we lose in our hearts. “Born Again” is dedicated to Chadwick Boseman. In this song, Rihanna speaks for all of us when she says, “Wherever you are, I’ll be there. We carry on, born again.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a good project. It paid attention to the different worlds portrayed in the film, and created separate soundtracks that fit into these worlds. Another outstanding quality of the album is the simplistic production. Ludwig Göransson doesn’t complicate the productions; listeners can identify the various sounds and instruments used throughout the project. The production also doesn’t overshadow the artistes’ voices, and everything is well-balanced.
However, in Göransson’s quest to include culture in the project, he outplays himself with the constant chants and the inclusion of a Yoruba worship song. Next time, Göransson should drop his perception of what African music should sound like and consider expunging any unnecessary “African touch.” Göransson must drop his faulty misconception of African music because his first attempt to appeal to the African market falls flat, and listeners might begin to question the validity of the research he carried out when he was in Nigeria and other African countries. What, exactly, many ask, is the African sound?
Also, this project had no business stretching itself across 20 tracks. Songs like Tobe and Fat’s “They Want it, but No,” and Foudeqush’s “Con La Brisa” did not cause a change in the project. The songs are bland and don’t fit into the film’s theme. With the length of the project, replaying could need a lot of effort. The track listing on this project needs to be more organised. It almost feels like the tracks got thrown in to complete the targeted number of songs. Some of the songs hold no relevance to the movie. In all, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever album offers closure and transports listeners across cultures.
Lyricism – 1.4
Tracklisting – 0.6
Sound Engineering – 2
Vocalisation – 1
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 6.5/10
Hope Ibiale is a writer and a book lover. She is currently a student of Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan.