The release of Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe‘s Queen & Slim is right around the corner—November 27—but, thankfully, we’ve already been treated to the film’s new soundtrack. Released last Friday, it includes songs from the likes of Megan thee Stallion and Lauryn Hill.
Still, the first single to drop from the album, “Collide,” is a collaboration between Atlanta duo EarthGang and British singer Tiana Major9. The three spoke to ESSENCE about appearing on the soundtrack, a collaboration that happened pretty organically.
“It just happened super naturally,” Olu (Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (Doctur Dot), the duo behind EarthGang, explained, detailing that they met up with producers in Los Angeles for a session with “a lot of cool people.”
“It was just like, ‘Hey just pull up to the studio. Let’s see what we can make happen,'” they added.
For Major9’s part, she recorded her contribution to the track in the U.K., she told ESSENCE. “They just sent it over to me. I recorded my part and just sent it back,” she noted. “The song was already written…so I just had to put my spin on it.”
While Major9 read the script to prepare for her studio session, Earthgang had only seen a few clips from the upcoming film—which follows a couple on their first date when a traffic stop leads to the death of a police officer. But the familiarity to the clips made EarthGang excited to see the remainder of the project.
“All of these people look like somebody I know,” Olu said. “Like somebody we know from back in Atlanta. [We] definitely know somebody like [Slim]. [We] definitely know somebody like [Queen]. That’s what I really like about it. The representation in the film is really cool.”
Major9 added that she connected to the film because she can relate to the message about over-policing even though she’s from the U.K. “In the U.K. we have something very similar with the police as well. Black people are always at the wrong end of police brutality,” she said. “So I already connect with that.”
It’s why all three were excited to jump on the soundtrack, which Earthgang see as a project that “really taps into everything that’s going on in popular culture right now.”
“There’s something from Lauryn Hill; something from EarthGang; something from Megan Thee Stallion; something from Burna Boy,” the group said. “It’s really tapping in. It’s not just like, ‘Let’s go get one big-name artist and make them be the head person of the soundtrack.’ It reaches so many different spaces.”
Asked about the soundtracks that influenced how they think of the form, Earthgang names albums for films like Space Jam, Superfly, and Watchmen.
“[Watchmen] had some fire songs,” Olu admits. “It had Nina Simone and Simon and Garfunkel. That’s two different areas and two different realms of what’s going on musically, but to have both of those songs on that soundtrack just made me want to dive into that soundtrack even more. I’m like, ‘Damn, you got Nina Simone and Simon and Garfunkel on your soundtrack?‘”
Queen & Slim is a visually stunning film that takes viewers on a journey through the South as it examines race and police violence. And to hear Southern artists such as Mike Jones and Lil Baby on the album only adds to the experience. It’s a nod to a region full of color and creativity, despite its reputation and history.
“It got to be something in the water, man,” Olu said when asked why the South is such a hotbed of inspiration and creativity. “Growing up in the South, you see yourself…I saw things that I could be. I saw people who own businesses. I saw people who tricked out cars. I saw people who wore crazy outfits. So it all became, you know, this melting pot of creativity; Black creativity.”
“People in the South go through a lot. Not to say that people everywhere else don’t go through stuff, but Black people in the South, we deal with racism, we deal with classism, you know what I’m saying? We deal with whatever intersectionality is going on,” he continued. “So you have all of these stories to pull from that you could put into your music and movies. There are so many different modes of life coming up in the South.”
Queen & Slim, starring Daniel Kaluuya and ESSENCE cover girl Jodie Turner-Smith, is in theaters next Wednesday.
Joi-Marie McKenzie contributed to this report.