Erik Killmonger's costume from Marvel's Black Panther movie was partially inspired by the famous rapper, Tupac Shakur. One of the most praised aspects of the Black Panther movie - which was directed by Ryan Coogler and based on a script co-written by Coogler and screenwriter Joe Robert Cole - was the villain Killmonger. Michael B. Jordan's performance as Killmonger added depth to the character's already profound story arc that intertwined with the titular hero, T'Challa, aka Black Panther.
Of course, while lots of time went into developing Killmonger's backstory as well as establishing his motivations, quite a bit of time also went into designing his overall look for the film. One aspect that may not be immediately noticeable is that Killmonger wears blue throughout the entire movie (until he becomes the Black Panther, that is), which Coogler says in the audio commentary represents colonization - something that's at the heart of Killmonger's story. While Killmonger's various costumes and outfits took inspiration from a variety of sources, one of them happens to be Tupac.
In the Black Panther movie's audio commentary, Ryan Coogler mentions that a small but significant part of Killmonger's costume design was partially inspired by Tupac: the herringbone necklace, which Tupac wore quite often in the 1990s (prior to his death). The necklace style is first seen being worn by Killmonger's father, N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) in the movie's opening sequence in Oakland, CA, which is set in 1992, thus also coinciding with Tupac's fame at the time. Then, it's later seen being worn by Killmonger throughout the movie until he eventually becomes the Black Panther.
What's interesting about the opening sequence in Oakland is that all three men in the room - N'Jobu, T'Chaka, and Zuri - are seen wearing gold necklaces. While it may seem like a stylistic choice, Coogler says that the reason for that is because they are all three Wakandan royalty in one way or another. Color coordination was an important aspect of making Black Panther, and the repetition of gold chains and necklaces is seen throughout the film. For instance, Okoye (Danai Gurira) is also seen wearing a gold necklace because she's the general of the Dora Milaje - a high ranking officer.
As for Erik Killmonger, his necklace may have been inspired by Tupac and the blue color from colonization, but his overall look is something that can easily be attributed to Jordan's love for anime. Shortly after the movie released, it was pointed out that Killmonger's costume looks almost identical to Vegeta's costume from Dragon Ball Z, which makes sense since Jordan is a self-professed anime fan.
Black Panther is out now on Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-Ray.
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