“Queen & Slim,” which hit theaters Nov. 27, begins with a bang, when Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) shoot a police officer in self-defense and go on the run. Slim thinks his action will be justified in court, but Queen, a young prosecutor, knows better.
Directed by two-time Grammy winner Melina Matsoukas and scripted by Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe, with a black composer and a soundtrack executive produced by a trio of women, the film also shakes the pillars of the movie business, inasmuch as it’s a collaboration among women in leadership positions in male-dominated, diversity-deficient industries.
Motown’s Ethiopia Habtemariam was impressed by the film and its sound. “I saw an early screening, and it resonated with me for days,” she says. “What’s dope about Lena and Melina is that they’re real music heads.” All three are executive producers on the soundtrack.
For singer-songwriter Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), the chance to compose the film’s score was a “huge opportunity to go full steam” into a side of his talents he has just begun to connect with. Recommended for the job by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Solange, Hynes quickly assimilated the vision of Matsoukas, who wanted the movie’s sound to “represent the breadth of black music, from the old to the new,” according to music supervisor Kier Lehman.
To Hynes, who joins the ranks of black film composers like Kris Bowers, Wynton Marsalis and Quincy Jones, Matsoukas’ vision was paramount. “Every day, that was all that was on my mind — what I could do to enhance this project that’s the vision of these incredible women.”
Hynes’ score augments the soundtrack, released by Motown, which includes contributions from Lauryn Hill (her first new song in five years), Vince Staples and Hynes, as well as the newest addition to the Motown family, U.K.-based artist Tiana Major.
Says Habtemariam of the eclectic mix: “Overall, it’s a musical journey of black artists from different spectrums: You have a Megan Thee Stallion, but you also have a Roy Ayers and someone people may not know, like Choker. This is a group of black talent that speaks to every generation, every era, and it also speaks to the soul of the film.”
Reflecting on the achievement, Habtemariam says: “Two black women executive producing the soundtrack of a major motion picture together? I’ve never seen anything like that happen in my whole career. But there are incredible black women working on this project across the board. I’m just really, really proud.”
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