The Best Hip-Hop Soundtrack Songs

Unlike Eminem fictionalizing his rap-battle life in 8 Mile, or JAY-Z pumping his hustler memoirs behind Frank Lucas’ story in American Gangster, Kendrick Lamar’s contribution to the upcoming soundtrack for Black Panther appears to be more than just autobiographical inspiration. The first hint was Kendrick’s collabo with Vince Staples in a trailer, the second being “All the Stars” with labelmate SZA. The newest single, “King’s Dead,” features K Dot, Jay Rock, Future, and James Blake tipping the cap to Wakanda’s monarchy. And though Run the Jewels has been saluted by Marvel in print and featured in one Black Panther trailer with their banger “Legend Has It,” Kendrick was a natural choice for curating the official soundtrack, given that his loyalty ‘n’ royalty theme “DNA.” echoes the philisophies of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, the lone king of a country who sometimes kicks ass with The Avengers when not leading the most technologically advanced nation in the Marvel universe.

Hip-hop artists have long used movie soundtracks to catapult some of the biggest hits of their careers, from Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in the ’80s, to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” in the ’90s, to JAY-Z’s “La La La” in the ’00s. The Bad Boys II soundtrack, for example, was helmed by Puff Daddy to exploit the roster of early-’00s Bad Boy Records, while the previously mentioned 8 Mile and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying corraled some outside rappers within a mostly Shady/Aftermath/Interscope package. In honor of Black Panther’s arrival, this playlist celebrates 30 years of hip-hop soundtrack hits, from the “left it off the album and we needed a home for it” variety to the “worldwide platinum single that just happened to be attached to a movie” kind.