Solange's recent gem When I Get Home is a blended jazz, electronic, R&B, and avant-garde hip-hop album full of homages to her home of Houston and the black diaspora.
Seen as a follow-up to her critically-acclaimed 2016 album A Seat at the Table, this album in some ways feels like a continuation of that similar conversation and celebration of Black culture, feminism and identity. Her eclectic mix of collaborators include Jacolby Satterwhite, members of Odd Future like Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, Pharrell Williams, Raphael Saadiq, Gucci Mane, Playboi Carti, Phylicia Rashad, her teenage son Julez and more.
Shortly after the album was released Solange dropped the accompanying film, exclusively watchable through Apple music. In the video, the album's tracks play under visuals of Solange and others dancing and posing in a seemingly afrofutristic Texas, dressed in ensembles like snakeskin boots, chrome jackets and nude two pieces while black cowboys ride horses up the road. There's also a rodeo scene and several Cadillacs and DeLoreans, a type of sports car that grew popularity in the 1980s. One of my favorite looks of hers include opaque white gloves and matching boots, with black hair falling from her head to the floor like a dark waterfall. The looks themselves seem like they belong to the past and the future at the same time.
The video is dense with layers of symbolism, movement and alluring aesthetics, making it difficult to fully unpack each scene at first look. It's a creative combination of visual art, music and performance–including some wild, surreal animation–and it's definitely worth a watch or several.
The 19-track album opens with "Things I Imagined". Her soft vocals repeat the phrase "I saw things I imagined" over electronic piano, shifting time signatures and chords in the song––which is a common style throughout the album. This opening track to me seemed like a welcome into her mind.
Some of the tracks act as interludes between songs, sampling audio clips of a scene from a show or a poem. One of the songs "Can I Hold the Mic?" features audio from a video clip of rappers Diamond and Princess of the crunk rap group Crime Mob, followed by some of my favorite lines from the entire album:
The track "We Deal with the Freak'n" features a clip of Alexis K. Tylor, a talk show host known for her focus on female sexuality.
The transition of "Jerrod" into "Binz" is so seamless I almost thought it was one song. The jazz and funkiness of these two tracks naturally flow as one ends and another begins. I would definitely recommend listening to this album in order, as it should be heard.
Solange celebrates Blackness throughout the album in not just musical genre, but of course in her lyrics too.
In "Binz", she references the stereotype about Black people and lateness in the lines "Dollars never show up on CP time. I just wanna wake up on CP time,". I think it's interesting how she contrasts this with the other lyrics in the song that speak to living lavishly. Staying in presidential suites and owning Saint Laurent, it seems to either chip at another stereotype that Black people are poor or just nodding to Black struggle and Black excellence.
Many of the titles of the songs are areas in Houston, including “Almeda”. In this song, Solange declares that Black culture is and will always be owned by Black people, and within that there is strength and unwavering faith no matter how others try to take it or change it.
Solange's lyrics also offer transcendent poetry, painting images in our minds of her mysterious and magical vision. In "Down With the Clique", she sings:
Both of the extremely talented Knowles sisters have expressed themes of home, Blackness and feminism in their music. It’s fascinating to see how their styles and approaches are so unique and different.
With this album, Solange has further established herself artistically. There is no conformity to the mainstream, just her bold creativity. It’s definitely worthwhile to spend some time with this album.
Words by Destanie Martin-Johnson // @destaniemj