#BlackInTheaters: Ten Best Black Movie Soundtracks Of The Last Decade


From the start of the modern film industry, soundtracks and movies have gone hand in hand. Love Jones, Brown Sugar, Supafly and so many other films have delivered timeless soundtracks that have cemented their place in music history. In recent years, there has been a growing sentiment that the importance and quality of soundtracks has diminished. Nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Hit-Boy, Pharrell Williams and many others have shown time and time again just how important soundtracks are. Not to mention, these same artists have shown just how good soundtracks can be when a team puts their heart and soul into making one. With National African-American Music Appreciation Month on the way, let's celebrate by counting down the best soundtracks of the last ten years.

Criteria

  • No compilations of previously released music. This list includes projects that primarily feature music that was made specifically for the film. As a result, the Straight Outta Compton, Hate U Give and Detroit soundtracks were not considered for this piece.
  • No music released before June 1, 2011. This list includes albums that were released within the last decade. As a result, soundtracks released before June 2011 and after May 2021 were not considered.
  • No albums that do not feature Black artists. This list was made primarily to celebrate National African-American Music Appreciation Month. This is also the Black Information Network. Therefore, albums that do not prominently feature Black artists were not considered.
  • No television series or miniseries. This list was made to celebrate movie soundtracks. Therefore, television series and miniseries were not considered. As a result, Power, Godfather of Harlem and Empire will not appear on this list.

Honorable Mentions

Not every film soundtrack will be featured on this list. However, that doesn't mean they weren't fun to listen or have hits. At the end of the day, there are only ten spots and someone had to be number eleven. Keeping that in my find, the following movie soundtracks did not make the list: Barbershop: The Next Cut, Dolemite Is My Name, Coming 2 America, If Beale Street Could Talk and Think Like A Man. What song finished 11th? Think Like A Man finished 11th. The 2012 release starts off incredibly strong with "Think Like A Man," "Tonight" and "Need A Reason." However, it does begin to tail off towards the end. For that reason, it falls just shy of making the top ten.

10. The Photograph

Released: 2020

Standout Track: "Comfortable" by H.E.R

Artists Featured: H.E.R, Robert Glasper, Erykah Badu, Lucky Daye

The Photograph soundtrack may not be on most lists, but it is not this list because Robert Glasper is a musical magician. Having produced for everyone from Herbie Hancock to Mac Miller, he's shown that there is a challenge that is too big for him to overcome. There are tracks from Erykah Bad, H.E.R and Lucky Day sprinkled into the soundtrack, but it is 90% made up of the warm sounds of Robert Glasper's own creation. From the piano playing to the arrangements, he does it all and it is hard not to love this project. Above all else, this soundtrack feels like the movie. Without ever watching the film, listeners can get the essence of the emotions they'll feel throughout the movie right here.

9. Hidden Figures

Released: 2016

Standout Track(s): "Mirage" by Mary J. Blige, "I See Victory" by Kim Burrell

Artists Featured: Kim Burrell, Mary J. Blige, Pharrell Williams, Lalah Hathaway, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monaé

Like Robert Glasper, Pharrell is a man that does not miss when it comes to making music. Also, his work very much fits the film as The Photograph's soundtrack does. The upbeat swing of the project very much sounds like the early 1960s. Not to mention, Kim Burrell's gospel outro is too hard not to love.

8. Birth Of A Nation

Released: 2016

Standout Track(s): "Go Tell 'Em" by Vic Mensa, "Raise Hell" by Sir The Baptist

Artists Featured: Vic Mensa, Sir The Baptist, KAMAUU, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Nas, Lil' Wayne, Trey Songz

Birth of a Nation is a soundtrack that is closely tied to the conception of the film. From start to finish, the album delivers a sense of aggression, determination and soulfulness that is found littered throughout the movie. Vic Mensa's "Go Tell 'Em" hits hard out of the gate and Sir The Baptist bring a gospel feel that is impressive on "Raise Hell."

7. Creed

Released: 2015

Standout Track(s): "Shed You" by Tessa Thompson, "Lord Knows" by Meek Mill

Artists Featured: Tessa Thompson, Meek Mill, Donald Glover, Jhene Aiko, Vince Staples, Future, Joey Bada$$

Creed was not only a great movie, but it also had a good soundtrack. Part of what sets the project apart from others is its darkness. Much of Creed is shot in dimly lit spaces. Scenes like Bianca's first concert and Adonis Creed's first fight in Mexico are in dark spaces. Adding on the film was released in the early portions of winter when it gets dark out. Songs like "Grip" and "Shed You" are not dark in content, but feel dark in sound. It's hard to put into words, but if you listen to the soundtrack you will get the same feeling. In addition, the film is set in Philadelphia, so the inclusion of someone like Meek Mill throughout the soundtrack is a no-brainer. Not to mention, the training montage with "Lord Knows" playing in the background is unbelievable.

6. Superfly

Released: 2018

Standout Track(s): "No Shame" by Future, "This Way" by Khalid & H.E.R

Artists Featured: Future, Khalid, H.E.R, Lil' Wayne Miguel, Gunna, Young Thug, 21 Savage, PartyNextDoor

Superfly is the often forgotten soundtrack primarily because the film didn't do incredibly well at the box office. However, Future worked wonders with the sound and diversity of the soundtrack. Of course, he brings in Atlanta artists like Gunna and Young Thug, but he also provided a platform to younger artists like Yung Bans. What sets this project apart from other soundtracks is its R&B cuts. "This Way" and "R.A.N" bring a different feel to the album that is predominately rap. Moreover, songs like "No Shame" that are more R&B leaning add to the different vibes showcased throughout the album. The only drawback about the soundtrack is its length. With two discs and nearly 30 songs, it's a lot to consume in one sitting. It almost feels more like a playlist than an album at times.

5. The Lion King: The Gift

Released: 2019

Standout Track(s): "Find Your Way Back" by Beyoncé, "Brown Skin Girl" by Beyoncé

Artists Featured: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Blue Ivy, Saint Jhn, Wizkid, Tierra Whack

Beyoncé fans will not be happy with this ranking, but that's okay. The Lion King: The Gift is not at five because it was bad. It's at five because it was just that good. There just happen to be a number of really strong contenders ahead of it. The Lion King: The Gift hits its peak with songs like "Brown Skin Girl" and "Find Your Way Back" that provide messages that are powerful and grab at the listeners' heartstrings.

4. Judas and the Black Messiah

Released: 2021

Standout Track(s): "Fight For You" by H.E.R, "What It Feels Like" by Nipsey Hussle & Jay-Z

Artists Featured: H.E.R, Nipsey Hussle, Jay-Z, Hit-Boy, Nas, G Herbo, Rakim, EPMD, Polo G, Lil' Durk

Judas and the Black Messiah is a difficult project to measure. It reaches the highest of heights with "Fight For You" by H.E.R" and "What It Feels Like" by Nipsey Hussle. There are also small lulls where the music isn't bad, but it's just not at the same level that of songs like "Fight For You" and "What It Feels Like." There are also certain tracks like "Rich N**** Problems" that seemingly don't fit with the focus of the film. Adding on, the soundtrack is a bit long. Overall, it's a really good body of work, but it's not in the top three because there are a few misses and it could be fifteen songs instead of 22 songs.

3. Creed II

Released: 2018

Standout Track(s): "Shea Butter Baby" by Ari Lennox, "We Can Hit" by Crime Mob

Artists Featured: Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Lil' Wayne, Ari Lennox, Crime Mob, Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg

When comparing films, Creed is a better film than Creed II. In contrast, Creed II's soundtrack took things to a place that its predecessor didn't. First, the project is extremely diverse in what it offers. There are aggressive, in-your-face anthems like "We Can Hit" with Crime Mob and then there are those warm, soulful tracks like "Shea Butter Baby" with Ari Lennox. Not to mention, there are a few often forgotten gems like "Fate" with Swae Lee and "Love Me Like That" with Ella Mai.

2. Black Panther

Released: 2018

Standout Track(s): "Paramedic!" by SOB x RBE, "King's Dead" by Jay Rock

Artists Featured: Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, Khalid, 2 Chainz, SOB x RBE, SZA, Jorja Smith

Kendrick Lamar has not missed on an album release yet and this soundtrack is no exception. Led by Sounwave and Kendrick Lamar, this album does a great job of showcasing the best of Top Dawg Entertainment while also implementing different west coast artists. From Mozzy to SOB x RBE, the project did a great job of providing a platform to rising west coast artists. Sounwave also shines as a producer with the percussion that is highlighted through the album. Songs like "Opps" and "Bloody Waters" offer a tribal feeling that reminds you of the battle between T'Challa and M'Baku.

1. Queen & Slim

Released: 2019

Standout Track(s): "Collide" by Tiana Major9 & EarthGang, "Queen & Slim" by Coast Contra

Artists Featured: Tiana Major9, EarthGang, Vince Staples, Megan Thee Stallion, 6LACK, Lil' Baby, Burna Boy

The overall consensus is that the Black Panther soundtrack to be released in the last ten years. While it is incredible and could very well be ranked first, the Queen & Slim soundtrack is just as good, if not better. It was partially overlooked because of the backlash against the actual movie, but it has a soulful, warm feel that is undeniable. Most importantly, it has the best sequence of songs of any soundtrack on this list. From "Soul Sista" to "Catch The Sun," there are absolutely no skips. Each song takes the listener back to the warm R&B soundtracks of the early 2000s and the 1990s. Not to mention, Megan Thee Stallion delivers "Ride Or Die" and Burna Boy adds a little spice with "My Money, My Baby." Best of all, it's concise and cohesive. This soundtrack may have been one of the five best alternative R&B albums of the last few years.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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