50 Best Albums of 2018 So Far

Including Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Kacey Musgraves, the 'Black Panther' soundtrack and more

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Various Artists, 'Black Panther: The Album'

Various Artists, 'Black Panther: The Album'

We Say: The Black Panther soundtrack album has been nearly as feverishly anticipated as the film, and no wonder: It is helmed by another improbable straddler of cultural categories, Kendrick Lamar, A-list pop star and Black Lives Matter-era protest poet nonpareil. ... It is tempting to compare Black Panther to Curtis Mayfield's Superfly and Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man, classic blaxploitation soundtracks that channeled the social consciousness and sonic adventurism of early Seventies soul. But the analogy is imprecise. Lamar co-executive produced the album, has writing credits on all 14 tracks, and appears throughout, in starring roles and cameos. His main job, though, is a definitively 21st Century one: musical curator. Lamar corrals old friends from L.A. (Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul), southern rap hitmakers (Future, Travis Scott), nu-soul leading lights (the Weeknd, Anderson.Paak), and a host of lesser-knowns, including a handful of South African musicians with no little commercial presence in America. J.R.

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