In the hands of Kendrick Lamar, blockbuster movie Black Panther spawned a new type of ‘soundtrack’ album. Engineer Matt Schaeffer was at the controls.
After half a decade or so at the top of the game, Kendrick Lamar has already had 12 Grammy Awards and three number one albums. The first two were To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) and DAMN. (2017), and while the third is not technically under his name, Lamar is nonetheless the driving force behind Black Panther: The Album — Music From And Inspired By. The album was, at the time of writing, number one in the US charts, and the superhero movie that inspired it had grossed more than one billion US dollars in the few weeks since its theatrical release on February 16.
Lamar is known for being incredibly productive and as someone who adores spending time in the studio working on new music, so when he was asked to write a few songs for the Black Panther movie, he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. When director Ryan Coogler showed Lamar parts of the unfinished movie, the rapper was so enthusiastic that he booked several months of studio time and ended up co-creating an entire album, in close collaboration with Mark Spears, aka Sounwave, the main in-house beatmaker and producer at Top Dawg Entertainment.
Black Panther in fact spawned two soundtrack albums: the Original Soundtrack album with music by Swedish film composer Ludwig Göransson, and Music From And Inspired By, ‘curated by’ Lamar. He had a hand in the writing of all of the album’s 14 tracks, while Sounwave co-wrote and co-produced 11. Other writers and producers involved include Frank Dukes, Doc McKinney, Cubeatz, Mike Will Made It and many others, and in addition to Lamar there’s a whole swathe of performers, including big names like the Weeknd, Future, SZA, 2 Chainz, Vince Staples, James Blake and Travis Scott. Göransson co‑wrote only one of the tracks, ‘Opps’, which contains one of the few bits of the Lamar‑curated album that’s actually used in the movie.
Recording sessions for Black Panther: The Album took place in a whopping 13 studios, if you count the places where the album’s many guest producers and guest artists recorded their contributions. A substantial amount of original material was written by Lamar and Sounwave on the rapper’s tour bus while on the US leg of his DAMN. tour, but most of the work done by the duo on the soundtrack album took place at Windmark Recording and Interscope Studios in Los Angeles from September 2017 to January 2018.
“We were busy recording and mixing almost every day for five months,” says Matt Schaeffer, who was at the engineering and mixing controls at Windmark and Interscope. “I was there for most of the writing process, but some of the sketches were started on the tour. We started the actual recording process in Windmark, and many other songs were written there from scratch there as well, including ‘Opps’, which Kendrick, Sounwave and Ludwig wrote together one day, while looking at the movie scene in question, which is a car chase scene, to make sure it would fit. However, the music they used in the movie is pretty different from the track on the album. In...
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