12 Rappers Who Should Be Featured on the ‘Black Panther’ Soundtrack
Every superhero needs theme music. For Black Panther, Kendrick Lamar will likely have the honor of providing the Wakandan king’s signature track—the 30-year-old rapper is producing the hero’s official soundtrack alongside his label head, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith. Lamar already dropped the smooth lead single "All The Stars," featuring SZA, and teamed up with Jay Rock, Future and James Blake for "King's Dead." Top Dawg Entertainment DJ/producer Mackwop revealed that Isaiah Rashad linked with Kenny for another in-house collaboration. And he's likely gearing up to drop a few more fire tracks ahead of the film's Feb. 16 debut.
"I'm truly honored to contribute my knowledge of producing sound and writing music alongside Ryan [Coogler] and Marvel's vision," Kendrick said in a statement. "Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is amazing, from its cast to its director. The magnitude of this film showcases a great marriage of art and culture."
Top Dawg added: "Working on such a powerful movie is a great opportunity. We're always working on new goals at TDE, so teaming up with Disney, Marvel Studios and the Black Panther film makes perfect sense."
Run The Jewels and Vince Staples laid down rhymes for the film’s trailers with "Legend Has It" and "BagBak," respectively. But with TDE at the wheel to curate the soundtrack, one can only imagine who else Kung Fu Kenny and Top Dawg will bring onboard. The elusive Black Hippy crew seems like a given—Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and K Dot is itself a supergroup that could rival the Fantastic Four—so they're omitted in this list. But still, there's another incredibly ill dozen that would increase the Black star power of this soundtrack and fit the movie universe's dope-and-woke vibes. Read below for a wish list of the 12 rappers that should appear on the Black Panther soundtrack.
Rapsody is known for celebrating Black folks in her music. From featuring two Black girls on The Idea of Beautiful’s gorgeous cover to breaking down colorism in To Pimp A Butterfly’s "Complexion (A Zulu Love)," Rapsody has proven that she’d be a fitting voice in Black Panther. Plus, she and K Dot have history—in addition to the aforementioned TPAB track, the wordsmiths got together on Laila Wisdom’s “Power” and For Everything’s "Rock the Bells." Rapsody and Kendrick have chemistry on the mic, so we wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up on the soundtrack.
For two decades, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) and Talib Kweli have remained two of the most woke rappers in the game. While the group has been defunct since dropping Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star in 1998, the lyricists have collaborated with each other several times since, and even announced an international tour last year. So a reunion of these two rhymers would be an ideal way to ring in Black Panther.
Jay Electronica is a rap enigma much like the hidden city of Wakanda—nobody knows when (if?) the New Orleans rapper will finally release his debut LP. But that doesn’t stop fans from waiting with baited breath for new rhymes from the “Exhibit C” rapper. Of course Kendrick and Jay Elec have had had some friction in the past, but maybe they can put that to the side for the sake of an iconic comic.
As one of the top British rhymers (who is also of Ghanaian descent), Stormzy's fast rhyme style would fit in well with the superhero film. We can already see Stormzy’s rapid flow matching with T’Challa’s combo hits to his enemies. For the international superhero of mystery, Black Panther definitely needs at least one international rapper on the soundtrack. And this 24-year-old rapper is just the man for the job.
When the most technologically advanced country in the Marvel universe is also a Black nation, a rapper with the name Black Thought needs to be involved somehow. Repping for the motherland is The Roots’ lyricist's M.O.—the band's 1999 classic Things Fall Apart is named after a novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Plus, Black Thought and Kendrick Lamar is the collaboration hip-hop heads need.
With songs like “Bling Bling,” which was featured in Insecure’s pilot episode, Junglepussy proves to be ruthless, unforgiving and just a sheer badass. Much like Black Panther’s all-women warrior crew, the Dora Milaje, she pulls no punches. Except instead of actual punches, she delivers with her rhymes. Junglepussy’s brash rhyme style would provide the perfect sound for when things ultimately pop off in the film.
Known for its militant, Black nationalist lyrics in the ‘80s, Public Enemy is a natural fit for Black Panther —a franchise that debuted in 1966, the same year that the Black Panther Party was founded. Although many think that Black Panther wasn’t inspired by the political party, the comic book series deals with a heap of politics, racism and intellectualism, especially in the latest run written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. As for Public Enemy, with big anthems like “Fight The Power,” they’re bound to create a track fitting for the times that Black Panther decides to release his vibranium claws.
After dropping 4:44 last year, Jay-Z proved that he still had his rhyming chops as he talked about supporting Black businesses and gaining financial freedom. Much like the billionaire Wakandan king, T’Challa, Jay-Z knows a bit about managing a kingdom—or at least several businesses. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes one of the latest Black Panther comic book runs, said that he listens to Jay while writing the series as well.
Jaden Smith has been around the music scene for all of his life. But it wasn’t until he dropped his latest single “Icon” that we recognized his potential for creating a song that’d be fit for an action film. Plus, Smith has some similar experiences to Black Panther: As the son of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he knows what it’s like to be Hollywood royalty. Like Black Panther, Smith also has a sister, Willow, who is a frequent collaborator. We wouldn’t be surprised if they have a secret handshake too.
As a Nigerian artist, Jidenna is a natural fit to represent the fictional African nation on the Black Panther soundtrack. With funky hit tracks like “Classic Man” and “Long Live The Chief,” it seems like Jidenna already paved the way for how it could sound as well. T’Challa, the smooth-talking king who can “never freeze” will definitely need some sleek tracks for whether he’s in a tuxedo, traditional Wakandan clothing or defending his nation in the Black Panther suit. And Jidenna is just the person to deliver.
Named after the Marvel character of the same name (X-Men’s Jean Grey), Jean Grae is a huge comic book fan who is bound to create a classic song for Black Panther. Since she has much love for the genre and a working knowledge of comic books, she’d be able to easily pull off some amazing lines, too.
Also, despite 22 years in the music industry and at least 20 projects under her belt, Jean Grae remains to be one of the most underrated rappers in the game. But if she claims her spot on the soundtrack, she’s sure to reach a new crop of hip-hop fans who haven’t delved into her music.
Similar to Jay Electronica, MF Doom is another rap enigma known for secrecy. He hides his face behind his famous metal mask and even has other people impersonate him on stage when he wants a night off. Black Panther also has to navigate dual faces as T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, and Black Panther, the world-class vigilante. Also, MF Doom’s name is inspired by the Marvel villain, Dr. Doom, who like Black Panther is an antagonist for the Fantastic Four in the comic books.