Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler On Convincing Rihanna To Return To New Music For Wakanda Forever’s Soundtrack

Shuri (Letitia Wright) in Black Panther 2 and Rihanna in the "Work" music video
(Image credit: Marvel/Disney/Roc Nation)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is chock full of individual properties, and Black Panther is definitely a fan favorite. Its sequel Wakanda Forever has been one of the most highly anticipated upcoming Marvel movies in Phase Four. Excitement was buoyed when Rihanna released her first new song in years as part of the movie’s soundtrack. And Black Panther director Ryan Coogler recently spoke about convincing Rihanna to return to new music for the Marvel movie.

While we have a few more weeks until Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Rihanna’s new song “Lift Me Up” has already arrived and broke the internet. This track comes ahead of her upcoming performance at the Super Bowl, with fans of her music thrilled that she’s once again exploring that aspect of her career. Ryan Coogler spoke to ScreenRant about the process of this track coming together for the Black Panther 2 soundtrack, saying:

Look, Rihanna has given us a whole career and a whole catalog of music. And now she's given us makeup and clothing, and I think the world would understand if she hung up her mic. I completely understand because I love her music so much, but I feel like she's given all that you could ask for. But the truth is we were looking for a great artist who could tell the story of the film, embrace the themes of the film, and present them to the audience in a different packaging. That's what Kendrick did so beautifully with the first film, and this film is different. It made sense that it would be a woman, and it made sense that it would be someone who could speak to not necessarily the words but the feeling of motherhood, because that's a major theme in this film.

Looks like the stars really aligned when it came to Rihanna’s involvement in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The 2018 original movie had an outstanding soundtrack, and Ryan Coogler wanted the sequels to do the same. And that includes getting Rihanna in to help bring hew new song “Lift Me Up” to life.

While the contents of Black Panther 2 are being kept under wraps, it seems like it’s going to be an emotional viewing experience. Namely because the story will focus on grief following the death of T’Challa. And given the real-life feelings of the actors who were mourning Chadwick Boseman, the stakes are high. And this meditation about motherhood and loss can be heard throughout Rihanna’s song for the soundtrack.

Later in that same interview, Ryan Coogler further explained why he thinks that Rihanna decided to release her first new track in years on the soundtrack of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And it seems like the late Chadwick Boseman was a factor, as the filmmaker explained:

And I think it timed up that she was in that kind of space in her life, and she was open. It was really the trailer, I think, when she saw the performances that everybody was putting down. That was what kind of put her over the edge and [made her] say, 'Hey, I want to see this film. I want to see if I can figure this out.' ...But the truth is, once she played us the record, she said straight up, 'I did this for Chad.' It was him, man. And sitting here thinking about it, it's hitting me right now... Chad brought us all together, you know what I mean? He just keeps on and keeps on giving. I'm just really thankful that Rihanna was the latest gift to join the family, and I can't wait for folks to see how it's used in the film.

How sweet is that? Chadwick Boseman was a real-life hero to many, and it seems like Rihanna did her song partially to honor him. Luckily for the generations of Black Panther fans out there, the wait for the new movie is nearly over. Marketing has been picking up for Wakanda Forever, revealing more thrilling footage from Ryan Coogler’s sequel. As a reminder, you can check out one such trailer below:

There are countless questions surrounding Black Panther 2, and luckily our answers are almost here. Perhaps the biggest was who would be taking on the mantle of the Panther, but the footage definitely seems to be pointing at one character in particular. The trailers have all heavily featured Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda, so it looks like her role will be significant.

As for Rihanna, fans are psyched to see her headline the upcoming Super Bowl show. Fans have been patiently waiting for a new album for years, so seeing her putting a focus on music has been satisfying. Even if the first song is a ballad like Black Panther 2’s “Lift Me Up.” She’s also got a new Savage X Fenty show coming out soon.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11th. In the meantime, check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.