Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album [Review]

Judas and The Black Messiah is a 2021 movie that follows the Black Panther Party, specifically FBI informant Bill O’Neal’s role in the assassination of Fred Hampton, leader and chairman of the Black Panther Party. It stars Lakeith Stanfield as O’Neal and Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton, and it’s one of those tough but essential watches for Black people everywhere.

The soundtrack for the movie dropped on the same day, and I have to say I was really excited. This tracklist looks like a mix of the older generation and the newer generation, with songs from Nas, Black Thought, Jay-Z, and even Rakim to Nipsey Hussle (R.I.P.), Smino, Polo G, G Herbo, and more. Given the rift between the two generations, I’d say this looks healthy for the state of Hip-Hop. So without further ado, let’s take a listen to the soundtrack of Judas and The Black Messiah. I have a feeling this is gonna be a long one.

Note: Some of these songs tie into events that happen in the movie, so a minor spoiler alert is in order.

1. “COINTELPRO/Dec 4” by Fred Hampton Jr.
Produced by D. Brooks Exclusive
Profound spoken word from Fred Hampton Jr. over a smooth D. Brooks. Exclusive beat to start the album off. It was a good move to have him on here given that his father was one of the main subjects of the movie. His whole segment can be described as educating the listener on things that you won’t learn in schools.

See, now it ain’t no coincidence that a lot of you cats don’t know about the infamous COINTELPRO (Shit)
G-Men, governmеnt hitmen
Directed by J. Edgar Hoovеr and his hitmen
Political frame-ups in which they still got a lot of cats politically caged up Killing us and hitting us with more than just the gun
And some names in which for legal reasons I can’t mention, that’s still on the run

Bars. He then goes on to describe what being a part of the Black Panther Party was like and urges the listener to never forget the death of his father.

Hold on now, and fast forward in closing words
From the tongues of the Black Panther Party Cubs
Let us continue to resist and never forget
2337 W. Monroe
4:35 AM in the morning
Westside of Chicago
1969
December the 4th

The date, time and area in which his father was killed. The movie’s reenactment will enrage you, or at least it should. Great start to the album.

2. “Fight For You” by H.E.R.
Produced by D’Mile & H.E.R.
I don’t listen to H.E.R. too much, but I’m convinced that this HAS to be her best song. You can hear the soul in every single aspect of this record. From her voice to the instrumental to the breakdown at the beginning that shows up again after the second chorus, this is just a great and soulful listen overall. I’m more attracted to the instrumentation, but H.E.R. without a doubt does her thing. And those pre-hooks!!

Freedom for my brothers
Freedom ’cause they judge us
Freedom from the others
Freedom from the leaders, they keepin’ us
Freedom gon’ keep us strong
Freedom if you just hold on
Freedom ain’t free at all, oh no

Freedom ’cause they need us (Freedom ’cause they need us) Free from how they see us (Oh, oh)
Freedom, won’t you free us? (Free us)
Freedom doesn’t hang from the trees
Freedom from injustice (Injustice)
Freedom from corruption (Corruption)
They aiming for destruction

3. “EPMD” by Nas featuring Hit-Boy
Produced by Hit-Boy
Hit-Boy had the game in a chokehold last year, and he continues his dominance by showing up on this album FIVE TIMES. This beat’s hard-hitting but it isn’t all that. This song for the most part just screams Black excellence as Nas gives us luxury & brag rap bars with a couple of movie tie-ins. For example:

Nigga, that’s how official the revolution is
Feds holdin’ cameras up and they zoomin’ in
Don’t be surprised when niggas show you they true intent

I tied this line directly to Bill O’Neil, even though in the movie he did a decent job of hiding the fact that he was the rat. If it wasn’t for that line I don’t think this song should’ve been on the album. But this is a good track. These two pick up right where they left off on King’s Disease.

4. “Welcome To America” by Black Thought featuring C.S. Armstrong & Angela Hunte
Produced by Sean C
Sheesh. These three absolutely laid INTO America. We get passionate and soulful vocals from C.S. Armstrong & Angela Hunte and a juxtaposition to sum up what it’s like to be black in America:

Welcome to America
Where you can dream, as long as you can breathe
You can be the muh’fuckin’ President of United States
And get murdered right on these streets
Welcome to America
Land of the brave and home of the free (That’s bullshit, man) You can be a saint or a sinner or a billionaire
Or just stand on your feet
Welcome to America

That ad-lib made me laugh. But with Black Thought doing three verses, you know it doesn’t end there.

My man said, “Yo, it’s crazy how fast that we’ve forgotten
That we used to pull boxes and plows like we were oxen
And cows”, without an option, and now it’s this glorious

Yo, I’m ill-fated and hated, I’m hella melanated
Blackness is my religion to that I’m dedicated

This one is for my very revolutionaries
After keeping it a hundred even though the truth is heavy
Who stand firmly and see their life is a journey
That either God or the gurney, my public defender burned me So did the district attorney in a turbulent trial
They told me that time is master, well I’m serving it now
Tell my family I’ll be making my return in a while
And every symbol of oppression, I’ll be burning it down

The third verse is definitely the best, with the last line being the defining moment of the song.

In America where on Black men, it’s open season

Nothing but facts there. This entire song left me speechless even after three listens. It was smart to have Angela Hunte do a bridge in between the first and second verse to not make the track feel longer than necessary. This is a contender, if not a frontrunner, for song of the year so far.

5. “What It Feels Like” by Nipsey Hussle & Jay-Z
Produced by 1500 or Nothin’, Mike & Keys, My Guy Mars, & Rance
Putting this track right after “Welcome to America” was a stroke of genius. It feels like the two songs are tied in together, with Nipsey saying “This is what it feels like” right after the open season line in the previous song. And his description of being black in America?

You get successful, then it get stressful, thirst
Niggas gon’ test you, see what your texture’s worth
Diamonds and pipes, one of ‘em pressure bursts

Spot on. Rest in power King.

Jay-Z, in my opinion, is the greatest rapper of all time. Whenever a Jay verse drops, it feels like the Hip-Hop world just stops to listen. This verse was no different. He addresses the Capitol riots while bringing up his legal cannabis company and the work he’s done to help bring prisoners home, then he corrects a line he misworded in “Murder to Excellence”:

I arrived on the day Fred Hampton got mur—, hol’ up
Assassinated, just to clarify further

He also brought up people getting killed in their own hood, which was clever considering that Nip’s on the song as well. I do feel like they could’ve cut down this track a little bit, but it doesn’t bother me at all as this is another amazing song.

6. “Broad Day” by Hit-Boy
Produced by Audio Anthem & Hit-Boy
While I enjoy this song a lot, I question the inclusion of it on this soundtrack. I can’t really tie in anything that he’s saying here with the movie, which is one of my biggest pet peeves about movie soundtracks. I still think this song proves that Hit-Boy can hold his own as a rapper.

Show me who you are once, ain’t gotta show me twice
You can’t sell like Eminem, you look like Obie Trice
Down to take a rubber bullеt for my voting rights
Real nigga, I ain’t gotta sign into no device

Look, makin’ it shake ’til my day, man this ain’t the same
I pick up the pieces every time it’s make or break
Base to base, hit like Griffey Jr. in his playing days

I like the beat switch in the middle of the song. Nevertheless, they could’ve left this off the soundtrack and nothing would have been lost.

7. “Plead The .45th” by Smino & Saba
Produced by Phoelix & Groove
In case the title didn’t give it away, this is a song about police brutality. This is a short track but it still says a lot in the 2 minutes and 20 seconds that it’s given. It sounds like Smino says “no peace till the PD [poor]” at the end of his verse, but everywhere I look it says “no peace to the PDO”. I looked everywhere & have no idea what the PDO could be, so I’m just gonna assume he means the former. Either way, the flows on this track are monster and they both sound extremely comfortable and in the pocket.

Shit is a war, never had no peace
They pullin’ me over, harrasin’ me
So, I’d like to see all of them bastards bleed

Great verses from both young kings. I think about the scene of Jimmy Palmer’s murder when I hear this. I like this track.

8. “Somethin Ain’t Right” by Masego featuring JID & Rapsody
Produced by Cardiak & WU10
As soon as I heard the chorus I immediately thought of the scene where Fred Hampton was killed. These past two songs are very focused on the police and I’m here for it. JID’s wordplay has always been elite and it’s only getting better.

What’s a more American way to try to give ’em a taste of they own medicine?
Prevalent ethnic rebel, the revolution of melanin

That’s my human right, universally, you and I, we could be unified But when you speakin’ truth beyond your youth, they want you euthanized Creepin’ through the night, hear something movin’, right?

I think about Judy Harmon whenever I hear Rapsody’s verse because it’s obvious that she has no fear for anyone and won’t hesitate to use her gun when she has to, like when she held Bill O’Neal at gunpoint or during the shootout with the police. This song captures the paranoia that the Panthers feel throughout the movie perfectly. This album has no bad songs so far.

9. “Letter 2 U” by BJ the Chicago Kid
Produced by THX, Jairus “J-Mo” Mozee, & BJ the Chicago Kid
BJ’s voice is so soulful. This song makes me think about Fred & Deborah’s relationship. I feel like that “I wanna get to know you” part was playing in Fred’s mind when he was reciting one of Malcom X’s speeches and Deb walked in. The beat switch in the middle of this song is nice & smooth. Everything about this is just soulful.

10. “On Your Mind” by Lil Durk
Produced by Andyr, John Lam, & Dmac
There are some lines in this song that I can loosely connect with how the Panthers felt when Jake Winters & Jimmy Palmer were killed:

A trench baby wakin’ up to the killin’ on his mind

I’m just wonder if I’m too grown to shed tеars
My soul ain’t been the same, I been so damaged through the years

The graveyard had felt my pain, I put my knees in it

Other than that, I don’t see why this is on the album. This could’ve been on the deluxe version of Durk’s album. Regardless, I really do like this song. Durk’s been on a winning streak as of late & I’m here for it.

11. “Appraise” by White Dave featuring Hit-Boy
Produced by B.CaRR & Hit-Boy
I think it’s funny that this dude’s name is White Dave, but starts off the song like:

Black skin, black as the space, black as the ash on a blunt
Black as the pavement, black as a spade, man

That was the first line I’ve ever heard from him too. Lol. In this song, he addresses the killing of Breonna Taylor, and the reason why people of color don’t keep the same energy when criminals kill police officers:

Real cowards tug on triggers without consequence
We got our backs against the bricks but there’s no stopping them
But we’d get blown to smithereens if we start popping them
Black bodies laid inside a grave without a chance to fight
Won’t ever change long as police is still militarized
They have villainous ways, since back in the day
They aim them guns at me familiar, I’ll never forgive ’em
So I don’t bat an eyelash when criminals kill ’em

Sheesh. Hard-hitting lyrics over a subtle instrumental. I like it.

12. “All Black” by G Herbo
Produced by Turbo & Ghetto Guitar
G Herbo is a very underrated rapper in my opinion. Turbo gave him a really militant sounding instrumental to work with and he delivered.

President out the ‘Raq like Obama
Shirt off, fuck a opp, ain’t no drama
No lie, I feel sorry for your mama
He got found with his— like Osama

Hard. I enjoyed this song. I think the title is the main reason why it was included on the album, but I’m here for it.

13. “I Declare War” by Nardo Wick
Produced by Cardo
I’m not too much of a fan of this song. This doesn’t really give off an “I declare war” kind of vibe. Everything from the instrumental to Nardo’s tone, flow, and delivery just doesn’t give me the “ready for war” tone. They could’ve switched this instrumental with the one from the last song and it would’ve been alright. As for Nardo, he sounds like he just learned how to rap & way too calm to be declaring war to me. The lyrics are there, but this song doesn’t feel the same way the title makes it seem.

14. “No Profanity” by Pooh Shiesty
Produced by Skywalker OG
I can see this being played during the scene that Jake Winters was running from the cops and ultimately got killed, but not before taking a cop down before dying. Pooh Shiesty to me is like a mix between Kodak Black & Gucci Mane. This is a good fit for the soundtrack and a good no-hook track that uses no profanity, as the title suggests.

And watch your back, it get real shiesty when you stackin’ presidents

He could’ve stepped up his energy a little bit to match the intensity of the beat. I still like this song, but I feel like they could’ve called it something different to make it tie into the theme of the soundtrack a little better.

15. “Last Man Standing” by Polo G
Produced by DJ Ayo & FrankGotThePack
Polo G is an extremely talented rapper, but I feel like there’s something holding him back from taking that next step. Regardless, this is a nice record. I enjoyed listening to him use the same rhyme scheme for the entire first verse. And the Hampton shoutout in the hook was nice. I think he says a lot of things in this song that Black people everywhere can relate to:

Thinkin’ ’bout that shit, like what if George is me?
Just as fucked up as them to sit back and watch them torture me
Like why you ain’t gon’ help me, just recordin’ me?

Jealous of my melanin, what make you human more than me?

On that front line, fist balled like Black Panther

Starin’ in the eyes of a nigga-hatin’ cracker
Like why the fuck I gotta prove to you my black ass matters?

No, really, why the fuck we still marchin’?

No wrong statements here. This makes me think about what society would be like if the Hampton-era Panthers were still around today. I will say it’s a little weird to hear him say “No more revolutionaries” when Hampton’s whole mantra is “I am a revolutionary”. I could be thinking about it the wrong way, but it’s still a good track.

16. “Respect My Mind” by Dom Kennedy
Produced by Mike & Keys
This song is alright, but while there are some lines I can loosely tie into the movie, I’m not really seeing why this is on the soundtrack. Every time Dom says something I can kind of tie in with the movie, he says some luxury rap bar or something about himself which really throws me off. But it’s a good standalone track for Dom.

17. “Revolutionary” by G Herbo featuring Bump J & Hit-Boy
Produced by Corbett & Hit-Boy
This is a GREAT song. The chorus is definitely something I can hear Fred saying to his son if he lived long enough to raise him.

Stand like a man, do you understand?
Create a fist from your hand, do you understand?
And never quit on your plans, do you understand?

And this segment in the first verse is absolutely disgusting.

Locked and loaded up with rounds of protection
Profound with aggression, you found us on Essex
We drownin’ in lessons and rounded in sessions
Tryna pound out the sound of oppression
Hearin’ this and now you bound to respect it, motherfucker

Tooouuugh. Love to hear it. Bump J also turned in a really good verse:

Bein’ rich is a mindset, yeah, I understand
We was ballin’, I took an L, well, let’s run again
Rather ten lion than fifty sheep, you don’t understand
My circle small, you fifty deep, still you undermanned

The first line in the verse makes me think he’s directly responding to Herb, which really shows off the chemistry. The fact that he continued the rhyme scheme from the hook was nasty too.

The only complaint that I have about this is that Hit-Boy’s percussion isn’t really hitting, but I can get past it.

18. “Teach Me” by SiR
Produced by Andre Harris & D.K. The Punisher
Another song that makes me think about Fred and Deborah’s relationship. Featuring a nice Jamaican instrumental and some smooth vocals from SiR, two words describe this track: soulful & groovy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was freestyling this whole thing. The vibes are everywhere. I can hear one of the Marleys on this.

19. “Contagious” by SAFE featuring Kiana Lede
Produced by Trackside
Another relationship track. Kiana Lede has a nice voice and this is a nice vibey instrumental. It’s a decent track and the chorus has a nice melody, but I don’t really see myself coming back to this track too many times. It’s still a good song though.

20. “Rich Nigga Problems” by A$AP Rocky
Produced by Ali P, Dauphin Amir, & DDot Omen
This was apparently recorded after Rocky got released from Sweden and it shows. I’ve been craving new Rocky music for a while now and while I like this song, it’s another track that I question the inclusion of. There were some little moments in the songs by Hit-Boy, Durk, and Dom Kennedy that I could make even flimsy connections to the movie with, but I can’t even make small connections with this song. It’s still good to hear from Rocky though.

22. “Black Messiah” by Rakim
Produced by Rakim
This bonus track tells the story of Fred Hampton. The track was produced & mixed by Rakim himself, and it shows. It’s not mixed or produced particularly well, but I get where he was trying to go with the beat. Regardless, Rakim does good lyrical work on this track.

The right cause, grow plan, that requires understanding
The life course of a good man, the Black Messiah Fred Hampton

But this is always how our leaders die because they getting too powerful
Like the barrel of a gun, crucified, he was only 21
Look at all the things he did in a short time
Imagine all the things that he could’ve done
If he could speak from the grave, Fred Hampton would say this:
“You can kill a Black Panther, but the Panther still exists

Facts man. He even took one of Hampton’s quotes directly from the movie:

Fight capitalism, the socialism, fight fire with water

A fitting end to a great album.

BOTTOM LINE

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a soundtrack album as much as this. Interestingly enough, the first one that comes to mind is the Black Panther soundtrack. This felt like a collection celebrating Black excellence of all ages & eras. The only song that I actively didn’t like was “I Declare War”, and given that there were 20 songs on this album I consider that a huge win.

Some tracks could have been left off of this and the album wouldn’t have lost anything. This is genuinely a great soundtrack. The only thing that holds it back are those tracks that don’t have a solid correlation to the movie. As for the movie, as I said before, it’s a tough watch for some people but it’s an essential movie for learning things that they won’t teach in schools. Definitely worth the watch. Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album is also worth a listen.

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