Rihanna‘s involvement on the new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack was nothing short of “divine timing,” Ryan Coogler told HipHopDX in an exclusive interview.
The director said that just as the circumstances of his life and career made Kendrick Lamar the right artist to create a theme song for the first Black Panther film, Rihanna’s recent journey into motherhood made her the perfect choice to do the same for the sequel with “Lift Me Up.”
“It felt right for us because motherhood is a massive theme in this movie,” Coogler said. “And that was kind of timing up for her. In a similar way, when we were finishing the first film, Kendrick was kind of inheriting this crown. What was the chances of us making this movie and Rihanna becoming a mom?”
As evidenced by the film’s trailers, Chadwick Boseman’s death has been worked into Wakanda Forever as the death of King T’Challa. The film centers on how the women in his life, particularly his mother Queen Ramonda, move Wakanda forward even through their grief.
According to IndieWire, following the film’s premiere in Los Angeles on Wednesday night (October 26), critics applauded how adeptly Ryan Coogler managed to introduce the necessary story lines and characters to continue to move the cinematic Black Panther franchise forward, while still celebrating Boseman’s legacy.
Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” plays an important role in honoring the late actor. And that was intentional on her part, Coogler said.
#BlackPantherWakandaForever is a beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Visual stunner, with Angela Bassett commanding every scene she inhabits. Rihanna's "Lift Me Up" will do that for many. Another great post credit scene that's genuinely a jaw-dropper. Don't know about Oscars. pic.twitter.com/55YSor1PrD
— Clayton Davis – Stand with 🇺🇦 (@ByClaytonDavis) October 27, 2022
“When she recorded ‘Lift Me Up,’ which was incredibly moving for me,” Coogler told DX, “She said ‘I was trying to do this man and his family justice. I was trying to make something worthy of what he gave to us.’ So I take no credit in that. We was all just playing a role.”
Ahead of the LA premiere, Rihanna tweeted a teaser trailer announcing the new song, which hits streaming platforms on Friday (October 28) via her Westbury Road label in partnership with Roc Nation, Def Jam Recordings and Hollywood Records. The teaser opens with the singer humming in the background as the letter R appears on the screen next to the Wakandan spellings of her name and song title.
According to an official press release, “Lift Me Up” was written by Rihanna, Tems, Coogler and Ludwig Göransson. The song was recorded in five countries and was produced by Göransson, who won an Academy Award for his work on the score of Black Panther in 2019.
“Lift Me Up” also marks Rihanna’s first release as a solo artist since her multi-platinum 2016 album, Anti. Even as a featured artist, RiRi’s last appearance was on PartyNextDoor’s “Believe It” in 2020.
Her absence from the music world has sparked an ongoing outcry for new material by fans on social media. As such, fans began hoping for new music the minute Rihanna announced that she would be performing at the Half Time Show at Super Bowl LVII in February.
Asked how he managed to get RiRi back in the studio, Ryan Coogler told DX: “So check it out, I don’t wanna misrepresent anything. Rihanna does what Rihanna wants to do. I didn’t get her to do anything. I think the timing just lined up. She has a phenomenal team led by Jay Brown and the Roc Nation folks. I got a friendship with JAY-Z. We wanted her, but everybody wants her. So we stuck with it as an idea, stayed in Jay Brown’s ear. We kept working on other music.”
He continued: “That woman, with all she’s given us in such a short span, she’s earned the right to do whatever she wants to do in terms of her career. She’s just doing her and if she wants to give us clothing we’ll take it, if she wants to give us makeup, we’ll take it.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Music From and Inspired By is set to hit stores and streaming platforms on November 4, just ahead of the film’s arrival in theaters on November 11.