Director Ryan Coogler and Producers Talk ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Soundtrack’s Lead Single, Working with Rihanna, and the Late Chadwick Boseman
It’s Wakanda forever! The day has arrived (Friday, Nov. 11) where the much-anticipated Black Panther sequel will be watched in theaters across the nation. Along with the film, the soundtrack to the movie arrived last Friday, with appearances from the likes of Tems, Future, E-40 — and the collection’s marquee attraction, Rihanna’s first new single in six years, “Lift Me Up.”
Ludwig Göransson, who won his first Oscar for best original score for Black Panther, worked on the soundtrack, including “Lift Me Up.”
“It was extremely special. Ryan and I created this spark, and Tems and Rihanna sort of turned that spark into a supernova,” Göransson tells Billboard. “They’re each tapped into something that borders on the divine — and looking back, it almost felt like ‘Lift Me Up’ had a life of its own, floating around the world, which felt right both for the film and the person who inspired it.”
The film’s director, Ryan Coogler, echoes these sentiments, saying that working with Tems, Rihanna, and Göransson was a rewarding experience. Göransson and Coogler’s relationship goes back over a decade and it’s “always great to collaborate with him,” he says.
“Tems, I’ve become very fond of in recent years, since learning about her and her story. I was amazed to be able to sit with her and have her contribute her artistry and genius to the song,” Coogler continues. “Rihanna, I’ve been listening to her since she came out, since ‘Pon de Replay.’ And her music has had a very meaningful effect on my life and the life of my family. I think back on some of our most memorable moments, and she was like a soundtrack for a lot of them. So it was amazing that it worked out.”
Göransson notes that the lullaby came together when he and Coogler flew to Nigeria to meet with artists and experience the music there. The pair talked about what kind of song they wanted to write for the late Panther Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020 at 43 after a battle with colon cancer. Coogler then started writing lyrics in his notebook on a flight, after hearing some chords Göransson had written and recorded.
While Coogler says he doesn’t consider himself a songwriter, he still felt honored to write the lyrics to the song. “I didn’t want to not do what he asked me to do,” Coogler says.
“We worked on a melody, which would become the chorus, and brought those ideas to Tems in Lagos,” Göransson continues. “She really brought it to life. Rihanna saw the movie a few months after becoming a mother and wanted to get involved — so we spent three weeks kind of painstakingly going through every part of it and it just came together.”
Co-producer of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Archie Davis, who has produced films Judas and The Black Messiah and Space Jam: A New Legacy, says that the song and the project as a whole changed the mourning process of Boseman for him in many ways. “I think it’s probably the most beautiful sonic love letter I ever could’ve imagined,” he says.
When it comes to the late Boseman, Davis hopes his legacy is remembered by people forever. “He was our Black Panther, and that goes beyond what he displayed on film.”
Now that the film is released, Coogler can’t wait for viewers to finally see it. “It’s just belonged to us for four years, so I’m excited to get it out to people and see what they think,” he says.
Göransson is similarly breathless about the film’s long-anticipated release: “I’m excited for audiences to connect with the story and the characters in a way that is uniquely intimate and deeply personal, and I’m excited for people to go home and be able to relive this experience with the soundtrack and the score.”