Back with another compelling and blissful work of art, Solange Knowles dropped her fourth studio album, “When I Get Home”, on Friday, March 1. This release fuses jazz sonics with funk, electronic and pop sounds to make a unique and deeply cultural masterpiece. At the center of it, all are messages of feminism, overcoming adversity and black expression. On top of that, her repetitive lyrics and slow, dreamy voice are the perfect follow up to her previous album, “A Seat at the Table”.
Much like her older sister, Solange is well aware of the impact of her voice. However, her vocal style is incredibly delicate as she sings about sex, feminism, spirituality, dreams and more. Despite the repetitive lyrics in most of the songs, the accompanying sonics often switch between slow and steady to bouncy and fun. Even when commenting on adversity faced by the black community, Solange’s message of overcoming and working through hard times give the album an overall carefree and light tone. At some points singing her heart out and other times simply speaking, she captures the strength of the southern black women beautifully.
Several tracks on the album are simple interludes or intermissions that guide listeners between subjects and subtle shifts in tone. “S McGregor”, the second track on the album, is an interlude titled after a major bypass in Houston, TX, where Solange grew up. The track samples actresses Phylicia Rashad and her sister Debbie Allen, as they recite a poem by their mother about leaving home for the big city. Another interlude, “Nothing Without Intention”, samples YouTuber Goddess Lula Belle, who focuses on spirituality and healing. While Lula Belle informs listeners to “do nothing without intention”, the interlude also includes Solange and a friend rapping about troubles with men and “shaking it”, insinuating that women should exist solely for themselves rather than for the attention of men.
Other tracks in “When I Get Home” have already risen to popularity within the short time the album has been out, and feature hip-hop artists like The-Dream, Playboi Carti and Gucci Mane. Two songs, “Things I Imagined” and “Dreams”, both center on having big dreams and hopes for the future, especially as a child. These slow, hazy songs encourage the idea that dreams and imagination can take someone a long way if they pursue and never give up.
Solange’s Houston influence is perhaps best expressed in tracks like “Down with the Clique” and “Way to the Show”. The first track criticizes artists who make it big and forget where they came from, drawing from Houston artists specifically. The second track repeatedly mentions “candy paint” — a paint applied to cars to give them a metallic, candy-like shine. This kind of paint is frequently seen on cars in the black community in Houston.
Overcoming adversity is another recurring topic throughout the album, and is best expressed in songs like “Stay Flo”, “Almeda (feat. The-Dream and Playboi Carti” and “My Skin My Logo (feat. Gucci Mane”. In comparison to other mellow songs, these three tracks are much more bouncy and a little faster-paced. “Stay Flo” centers around the black community working hard to succeed, and black folk wanting better for themselves. “Almeda”, named after an area in Houston, references a unisex cologne called Florida Water that is frequently used in Afro-American religious practices and is said to have healing powers. Despite the cleansing properties of Florida Water, Solange insists in “Almeda” that the cologne can’t wash away the determination of black folk. Finally, “My Skin My Logo” features Gucci Mane, and repeatedly mentions Gucci materials as symbolism for adversity. In this song, Solange encourages listeners to work hard despite obstacles in life and to support one another.
To accompany the album, Solange also released a film featuring an all-black cast, which centered on black culture and community in Houston. Many recurring images, like cowboy hats, horses, bull-riding and snakeskin boots portray Houston culture in all its glory, while cast members moved in synchronization to the music. The film especially honed in on black women, portraying them in powerful positions to highlight their strength.
“When I Come Home” elegantly captures the essence of southern black culture, hardship and perseverance, all while serving as a medium for Solange’s self-expression. It’s evident that in order to express her own experiences and feelings, Solange must channel cultural influences in her home city of Houston, TX.
Carla Suggs can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @carla_suggs.