How The 'Queen & Slim' Soundtrack "Showcases" The History Of Black Music

by Tori Zhou

You've never had a date quite like this. What begins as a seemingly everyday situation — two people go on a date to alleviate loneliness — turns into something else entirely when it ends, or rather begins, with the death of a police officer. The movie, in theaters on Nov. 27, tackles themes of race, protest, and police brutality, and the Queen & Slim soundtrack plays a big part of that.

Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, the film centers on the couple that quickly finds themselves on the run when a minor traffic infraction leads to Kaluuya's character killing a police officer. “We are not catering to a white audience. This film has not been put through a white gaze in any way," said writer Lena Waithe at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit. Lending to that is the film's soundtrack, featuring many artists of color in its album, with a track list that fuses R&B and hip-hop with soul.

The film's songs have served to speed up, and slow down, the ambiance amid scenes of a pursuit, anticipatory waiting, slow-dancing, and the transition from urban to rural settings. The film's director, two-time Grammy award winner Melina Matsoukas, is also no stranger to the hip-hop realm, having worked with the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé on music video production.

"I wanted the soundtrack for Queen & Slim to showcase the historical evolution of Black music, from its roots in blues and soul, to modern bounce, hip hop and R&B — much like we used to see in film soundtracks in the ’90s," explained Matsoukas. She continued, "We partnered with Motown because of their legacy within Black music."

With lyrics like "Tryna fix myself for society/ Tryna mix myself for society/ Watch them speculate on the life you live," Lauryn Hill sings her first solo single "Guarding the Gates" since 2014. Hill's message about being in love fits in with couple Queen and Slim, who Matsoukas firmly believes should not be paralleled with Bonnie and Clyde, despite the many comparisons. Matsoukas hopes to catch the attention of one particular viewer, President Trump, believing that inciting an angry reaction from him fulfills her role as a modern artist. "You can't just continue the status quo. It [art] needs to make people uncomfortable.”

Among the roster of voices featured on the soundtrack is Megan Thee Stallion, 6LACK, and Lil Baby, as well as up-and-coming artists like Ian Isiah, Tiana Major9, and Mereba. Coupled with the track list is the film's score, composed by Devonté Hynes, also known as Blood Orange, which is set to be digitally released on Nov. 22.