Along with all of the much-deserved hype for Black Panther, the movie also boasts one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, thanks to the inimitable Kendrick Lamar and the friends he brought with him. The album adds layers to the characters of T’Challa and Killmonger, deepening both the listening experience and the film itself.
With the Academy Awards approaching, and Jordan Peele’s incredible Get Out being up for four awards, the lack of a soundtrack a la Black Panther feels like a missed opportunity to continue probing the many layers of one of the most thought-provoking cinematic takes on race in America yet.
According to writer and director Jordan Peele, the inclusion of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” was meant to send a message to his Black audience. “I wanted to make sure that this movie satisfied the Black horror movie audience’s need for characters to be smart and do things that intelligent and observant people would do,” Peele told HipHopDX.
As a white audience member, I reflected on what Peele was communicating to viewers like me and imagined the soundtrack for Get Out that could have been.
1. “White N—as” — Jidenna
Despite statistics that suggest white people are far more likely to experience violence at the hands of other white people, many whites still fear non-white neighborhoods over our own. Considering the word Chicago is used as a racist calling card to stoke fantasies of inner-city violence, Jordan Peele interrupts this myth in the film's very first scene, as Lakeith Stanfield’s character walks through a suburban neighborhood at night when he is kidnapped and dragged away to be brainwashed.
Drawing upon a history of racial terror against Black people in white neighborhoods, Peele’s brilliant opening performs the same kind of mental gymnastics as Jidenna’s “White N—as,” wherein he flips the script on white folks with a story of what it would really feel like to live Black.
“Say if you and your wife Madeline were treated just like mine,” Jidenna begins, “All the anchors on ABC Nightline would speak about white crime.” Ultimately, Get Out is a film about white crime, in a world that doesn’t see white crime—it’s totally fiction though, right?
2. “Lift Me Up” — Vince Staples
They say the best jokes have at least a sliver of the truth in them. One of the main jokes in Get Out is that Rose’s father loves Black people because—after all—he would have voted for Obama a third time if it were possible. Get Out is not a movie aimed at conservative white audiences, but rather liberal audiences who most definitely voted for Obama and do other things that make them decidedly not racist (by their own estimation, at least).
On “Lift Me Up,” Vince is baffled by white audiences that hear his songs but don’t listen to the words:
“All these white folks screaming when I ask them where my n—as at? / Goin’ crazy, got me goin’ crazy, I can’t get with that / Wonder if they know I know they won’t go where we kick it at”
It takes far more than voting for Obama or going to a rap show to be anti-racist and both Get Out and Vince ask if liberal white audiences have begun to do the work of self-reflection.
3. “Don’t Touch My Hair” — Solange ft. Sampha
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A case study in microaggressions happens when the white neighbors come over and say all of the stereotypical things they can about Daniel Kaluuya’s character Christopher: he must be athletic, well-endowed, and happy to know that “Black is back in fashion.” These neighbors aren’t merely preparing to bid on him for auction: they’re recalling an evil history of auction blocks during America’s slavery era and a very present history of “othering” Black bodies for oppressive and exploitative aims.
Similarly, Solange directly confronts white listeners with her own warning about microaggressions, both the ones we are aware of and the ones we must still learn to rid ourselves of. Connecting her physical hair to the emotional depths of her soul, she pushes us to acknowledge the negative impact of seemingly insignificant comments.
4. “Lord Have Mercy” — ScHoolboy Q
One of the more startling and memorable scenes in Get Out is when Christopher tells the housekeeper, Georgina, that being around “too many white people” makes him nervous, but she denies him this moment of solidarity. Attempting to maintain her composure, she gives him a too-perfect smile as a tear begins to run down her face, seemingly out of her control.
ScHoolboy Q’s “Lord Have Mercy,” which plays like a short prayer, details the effects of trauma on people who are forced to move through the world with a smile when they’d rather cry or scream: “Shakin’ these broken hands and meetin’ with blank faces / Snake eyes keepin’ my back achin’.”
Georgina might play an exaggeration of the hypnotic effect that racism can cause, but the tragic effects she expresses are very real.
5. “Ain’t It Funny” — Danny Brown
A frequent debate about Get Out is whether it is intended to be scary or not. Some have even asked if it is supposed to be funny, which Peele has eschewed in favor of the term satire. Of course, the movie is likely scarier for anyone who might find themselves in Christopher’s story, but not for anyone who doesn’t look like him.
On Danny Brown’s “Ain’t It Funny,” the eccentric Motown MC delivers similar satire, detailing a life full of horror with lines like, “It’s a living nightmare that most of us share.” And for those of us who don’t share in such horrors, Brown quips, “Ain’t it funny how it happens?”
But if you’re laughing, you might be missing the point.
6. “Meditate” — EarthGang ft. J.I.D
After Christopher discovers Rose's box of pictures, with her various Black partners, he realizes that something is up—she’s not the exception to her family’s racism, but an active part of its continuation.
On the genius “Meditate,” EarthGang and J.I.D uncover a number of ways that other cultures want to partake in Black culture without the burden of being Black. EarthGang MC Johnny Venus raps, “When I fuck my white girl and I meet her daddy / I know deep down, man, he hate that shit / Plotting for the perfect time to bury me.”
There is, of course, nothing wrong with interracial dating, unless someone uses it to fetishize another race or attempts to use it as non-racism later (“I dated a Black person, so I can’t be racist.”). What Jordan Peele displays in Get Out is that racial allies (Remember when Rose defends Christopher to the police officer earlier in the movie?) are sometimes just playing nice for personal gain. Lest viewers think this doesn’t apply to our own lives, we should stop to consider what we take from Black culture and whether there is any reciprocity in our political actions.
Hip-hop is rife with songs that would have fit well on a Get Out soundtrack. May we take the time to celebrate the film and music and reflect on what they ask of us in return.