Welcome one and all to Flixist’s new end of the year awards program, the Golden Cages! With Hollywood becoming increasingly out of touch with what the people like, we at Flixist have taken it upon ourselves to deliver the fair, balanced, dignity-filled awards you deserve. Why are we delivering our 2018 awards so late in the year? Because the Oscars do it and we’re better than them. The winners of the Golden Cages will be spread out over the next two weeks, right before the hostless Academy Awards.
In the opening track, Kendrick Lamar lays the groundwork for challenges that face the King of Wakanda. A nation built on a meteoric mine of 10,000-year-old vibranium became the most technologically advanced country in the world. The basis of Black Panther isn’t as cut and dry as good versus evil. Wakanda has hidden themselves and their advances to the rest of the world, and that’s the precise thing Killmonger wants to change. Putting weapons and tech into the arms of the people instead of those already in charge. T’Challa is forced into the realization that Wakanda has a greater responsibility to the world around them. He has to figure out a way to bridge the past with Wakanda’s future.
King of the past, present, future, my ancestors watching
Ryan Coogler’s commissioning of Kendrick’s curation prowess reflects a holy matrimony of the film’s intent with an artist who isn’t afraid of speaking out. In the lead track named after the movie, Kendrick brings forth the consciousness of the Wakandan leader. A handful of songs later he switches course and touts the Killmonger point of view in “King’s Dead.” Since that tragic day in Oakland where he found his father with claw marks in his chest, Erik made it his mission to do whatever it takes to get to Wakanda and fight for his right to be Black Panther. We see this in the sickening, self-made death tallies over his body. We see this when he turns and kills his girl and then Klaw, guaranteeing his entry into the hidden city. We see this when he is rebuked by T’Challa before throwing the sitting king off a cliff. Killmonger has no illusions about The Perfect World, and neither does Kendrick.
Born warrior, lookin’ for euphoria, but I don’t see it
Killmonger’s sole purpose is to take back more than what was taken away from him. Call it vengeance if you want, but he’s not just fighting for his father’s death. He’s fighting for repressed people all over. The battle between T’Challa and Killmonger is a wrestling match of two opposing but important ideas. One fights to protect those in his charge, the other wants to give others a chance to rise up and fight for themselves. Do people want a protector, or to be able to protect themselves? If there’s one artist in the world today who’s able to beautifully opine this Devil’s Advocate both ways, it’s Kendrick.
Crushing any system, that belittles us / Antidote to every poison they administer
Kendrick burst onto the scene in 2012 with good kid, m.A.A.d city, and subsequently followed up with the hard-hitting To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN. He isn’t one to shy away from hot button issues and to speak out against oppression in its various forms. It’s what Killmonger lives and what T’Challa views from a distance. It’s one thing to see the news, it’s another to live it. Between Kendrick’s creative fortitude and Ryan Coogler’s direction, the basis for what helps make Black Panther a great movie (superhero or otherwise) is how well the two work together to tell a story.
They tryna tell us that we all equal / We get no justice so it ain’t peaceful
The commercial success of the album isn’t surprising with Kendrick leading the charge. Even if he doesn’t appear on a track vocally he had a hand in writing and producing each song. The turnaround to put together an album like this a year after DAMN. was released is wildly impressive and gave Kendrick fans new tracks to dive into. Multiple songs landed on the charts (most notably “Stars” and “Pray For Me“), and the album itself quickly reached No. 1 on Billboard and won two Grammy’s a couple weeks ago. A full year after the film was released, it’s successes--both cinematic and auditory--are still being recognized and celebrated. There are movies where the soundtrack is an afterthought, simply there to fill the void. With Black Panther, it not only expounds the movie but is a journey in its own right.