Solange’s third album, four years later, is widely considered one of the most timeless and relevant albums in US history, and justifiably so.
Ambitious, furious, beautiful and focused, it’s a chronicle of lived experience from a young black female, who was just thirty when the album was released in 2016. Recording began back in 2008, and it’s clear what a labour of love it is. It’s a masterpiece, standing proud next to gold standards like There’s A Riot Goin’ On and What’s Going On.
Her songs, even when at their most light and airy, carry real weight. Knowles’ voice, which has been compared to Erykah Badu and Minnie Ripperton, soars, and the production by Raphael Saadiq and Troy Johnson at the helm is both retro and modern, with a nod to African American past, present and future days.
Her mother Tina and father Mathew collaborate with her, and there are also appearances from Kelly Rowland, Q-Tip, Sampha, Tweet, The Dream, Kelela, Andre 3000, Dev Hynes and Master P, among others.
Vacillating between the heartbreaking, post break- up song Cranes In the Sky, where she tries to ‘drink/work/sext/run’ the pain away, to the demand for autonomy and respect in Don’t Touch My Hair and Weary , Knowles acknowledges the strides made in the civil rights movement, her black pride, and how much further there is to go.
Scales with Kelela is pure gospel music, and the spacious slow jam FUBU (For Us By Us) demands a space for young black people: ‘This shit is for us’. She references all the times she was asked for her name and address, she weaves her own incidents of racism with her parents’: the tensions still present, even in supposedly ‘woke’ times.
It’s a classic, precisely because of its low-key approach. Messages are delivered with subtlety and finesse, even when they burn with righteous indignation. Sadly, we need these reminders now more than ever, as the world remains divided, and protests continue. Long may Solange reign.