Queen & Slim: Melina Matsoukas On Curating The Perfect Soundtrack

“I really wanted to show the diversity of Black music.”

Grammy Award-winning director Melina Matsoukas has always wanted to tell Black stories, and for more than a decade, that’s exactly what she’s been doing. Most notably known for her visionary work in Beyoncé’s “Formation” – a video that uniquely portrays Black Southern life – Matsoukas is a film maestro in her own right, now reaping the joys of her first directorial motion feature, Queen & Slim

A lover of childhood nostalgia and product of Afro-Caribbean upbringing, Matsoukas’ creative approach to curating the ideal movie soundtrack is largely informed by the sonic journeys she enjoyed from the movies of her own era. Referencing films like Love Jones and The Nutty Professor, Matsoukas' main charge with Queen & Slim was to “show the diversity of Black music and the diversity of our voices."

BET sat down with Matsoukas to get the scoop:

BET: How important was it curating the perfect playlist? 

Melina Matsoukas: It was really fun because I got to craft a beautiful journey with the music. I really wanted to show the diversity of Black music – starting from soul, to bounce and hip-hop, to afrobeat – and the diversity of our voices. I wanted to also bring back the [quintessential] soundtrack. 

I grew up with Love Jones and Nutty Professor—poppin’ ass soundtrack. I wanted to bring that back and give that to the new generation, and also introduce them to some of the older phenomenal Black artists that exist. I feel like we achieved that. 

I also really wanted to trace the journey of Queen and Slim sonically, so you can understand where they are in the locale by the sound of the locale. So when we get to New Orleans, you’re introduced to bounce. When we’re in Alabama, you’re in a blues juke joint. When you get to Florida, you hear Wintertime rapping. It’s really about bringing out some of the local sounds along the journey to mark where they are in the world. 

BET: What is one thing that the general public doesn’t really know about what it takes to really bring a film to life?

Matsoukas: They don’t see the war. They don’t see the fight. Every day I’m fighting, that’s why my voice sounds the way it does, because of the thousands of conversations it takes to make one thing happen. [It’s about] making sure that your narrative speaks to your vision and your voice; that it’s in line with the authenticity of the story that you’re trying to tell and that that goes unfiltered. It takes a lot of conversations and research and education to bring something like this to life. 

BET: What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to offer Black and Brown girls trying to excel in what they love? 

Matsoukas: Educate yourself. Learn your craft. Be better and do better. Set a goal and don’t let anyone deter you from it. Period.

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