When I Get Home: A Discussion About Black Art

This article was a collaborative piece by Paul Barnes and Amani Allen-Beale

When I Get Home does not follow the traditional structure of an album. There are six interludes with most of them being under 30 seconds. The longest song on the album is 3:56 which is an average length for most conventional songs – but this project is not not built on the average or the normal in the slightest. Many people feel that the album flows like a series of demos and I can agree with this but I also have no issue with it. Short songs come in, do what they were designed to do, and leave. The repeat button is there for a reason. The longer songs have beat switches/transitions that flow seamlessly and give the song life as it creates a new experience for the listener in real time whether they are ready or not.

As Solange said herself in the conversation she had at the premier of the album’s short film:

“Obviously with A Seat at the Table I had so much to say,” she said. “With this album I had so much to feel. Words would have been reductive to what I needed to feel and express. It’s in the sonics for me.”

If I was forced to put a genre label on When I Get Home, I’d call it Intergalactic Soul Hop. There are songs you can dance to, songs you can rap with, songs you can fall asleep to – and transitions that are so perfect you have to run them back at least twice to hear how smooth they are. Let’s discuss the latter first. On the closing moments of “Jerrod” as Solange’s vocals dance around the bassline that transitions into the horn/synth melody that fuels “Binz”. It’s a moment where the instrumentation and subject matter are linked so perfectly it’s as if they are actually one song. “Exit Scott” which features a sample of Steve Lacy’s beautiful track “4ever” drops out right as it’s peaking to lead into Pharrell’s trademark four count to begin “Sound of Rain”. It’s a wonderful moment near the end of the album when we see how the top of a crescendo always yields exceptional results.

My personal favorite track on the album is the aforementioned “Sound of Rain” as it captures all the best elements of the album into one single track: an otherworldly melody, the perfect amount of bounce, layered and blended vocals and it just sounds good. And of course the beat switch! Another favorite is “Beltway” and while it is short and repetitive it’s the perfect song to fall asleep to. It’s like setting a ship on cruise control in space and just floating along as the stars dance around you. Then as the synths expand as the track closes there’s a subtle cash register noise that pops in just to give the track a sprinkle of extra uniqueness. Now I’d be remissed if I didn’t discuss standout tracks like “Almeda ” and “Binz ” the latter of which we touched on earlier. We all knew Carti was gonna be on the album prior to it releasing but I don’t think any of us expected him to come in how he did on “Almeda”. Solange already gave us an anthem with her list of all things black and then Carti (preceded by The Dream) floats in with his unmistakable baby voice flow and coasts all over the beat as his ad libs bounce all over the stuttering drums. It’s a moment that worked perfectly and gave us “Binz” is probably the most fun (and easiest) track on the project to sing along with and that’s how you know you’ve got a hit. Basically every line in the song is quotable and the hook by The Dream (not Kali Uchis as many people thought on the initial listen) is the perfect moment in between Solange’s verses.

Imagine dropping the bar “I didn’t want to sock her she had Gucci on her cleats’ ‘ as Gucci Mane himself ad libs for you and then proceeds to drop a verse. Then to have Tyler, The Creator come in with a refrain to close out the same song? A blending of worlds we never imagined we’d get but Soalnge gave it to us and it worked – again. “My Skin My Logo” is yet another fantastic track with surprise moments and the ever present beat switch that fits right into the black excellence and auditory bliss this album oozes.

Interludes on albums can serve several purposes: they can be instrumental portions or voicemails that signal a shift of the direction of the album. Or, they can be comedic skits with voices we know and love – or hate. In the case of When I Get Home they serve as a segue between tracks that provide beautiful transitions or signal a shift in tone. And they’re unique in their own way as expected. “Can I Hold The Mic” uses the same technique as the opening track on the album as Solange’s voice is in perfect synchronization with the keys while “Nothing Without Intention” gives us a small glimpse of the atmosphere we’ll be getting on “Almeda” while also giving us a mantra we can all live by. It’s as if these interludes are brief glimpses in Solange’s mind as we pass through the full experience that this album is.

When I Get Home takes us on an auditory journey through space, the south, Solange’s journal and her mind. It’s so many layers and sounds throughout the album that you’ll probably hear a new sound each time you listen to it. It’s an album with quotables and songs you can dance to or lay down and look a the stars while you listen. It’s an album that once you’ve finished listening it wasn’t just something you heard – it’s something you experienced.

After letting the album marinate with us for a few months, Solo has recently wrapped up her tour for When I Get Home. Not only did the tour remind us of the amazing sounds and rhythms, but it wasn’t an ordinary tour. Sure, Solange went to multiple venues and performed her sophomore album in front of thousands, but what made this tour stand out immensely was the visuals, the choreography, and the location of her venues.

Staying true to her aesthetic, Solange’s stage design was very artistic and minimal with a splash of elegance. With a live band behind her and her remarkable backup singers, the performance is also topped off with a staircase full of young Black dancers.

Now when When I Get Home dropped, it paid a lot of homage to Solange’s hometown of Houston, Texas — from the videos to the slowed and reverbed mixes on songs like “My Skin My Logo” and “I’m A Witness”; which Texas is known for. So I’m short, the tone of this album was very Black and Solo made sure to keep the flow going into her performances. Teaming up with different art venues and museums, Solange began to bring Black art in white spaces in a very unique way. While some may argue this isn’t notable, seeing Black art in this setting directly in the face of wealthy white people is exactly where the art industry is currently going. As you can see from Twitter user @NicoKartel, Solange is doing just that. What makes Solo’s movement so intriguing to watch? Well, she’s very unapologetic about her Blackness and where she grew up. Giving us Black southern realness in the face of white critics is something everyone wants to watch.

DJ Khaled Brings Heavy Hitters to the SNL Season Finale

The black people in charge of musical guest booking at SNL really held it down for us this season y’all. We got Travis Scott, Ella Mai, Anderson .Paak, and more of our favorites this time around. But for the season finale last night we got an onslaught of big names all on one episode. DJ Khaled was the official guest but we all know he had to bring at least two artists with him… he brought EIGHT. They included Lil Wayne, J Balvin, Meek Mill, SZA, John Legend, Big Sean, Jeremih and Lil Baby.

The first song performed was “Jealous” with Wayne and Big Sean there live to do their respective verses with Chris Brown’s hook on the backing track. Next, “You Stay” was performed with Jeremih, Meek Mill, Lil Baby and J Balvin all present to contribute their parts live. There was nothing special about the performances themselves as the x-shaped stage had some smoke and that’s as far as it goes for theatrics. But, if you like either of these songs than you’ll probably enjoy the performances. Peep them below!

The second set of performances were miles above the first. SZA began them posted on a live piano belting out her vocals from “Just Us”. This gave way to “Weather The Storm” in which Meek did his verse. Then, in a truly beautiful moment, the piano rotated to reveal John Legend playing it while singing his hook from “Higher”. In the background, practically watching over the stage during this moment was neon blue drawing of Nipsey himself as well. Then to close out, all of the nights musical guests came on stage and stood together in tribute. Check it out below.

 

Videos courtesy of YouTube. 

COLORS: Connecting Fans Through Unique Performances

If you’re not familiar with COLORS and you’re a music fan let me tell you something: you’re definitely missing out. COLORS is a web series on YouTube where talented music artists perform live with their raw vocals. But, the special part is when they perform the room, they’re in only has a suspended microphone and any instruments the artists or their band uses. Oh and there’s three walls and a floor. And they’re all one color. The color always matches the tone of the song or the outfit the artist is wearing. Some may think this is difficult to achieve but every single one I’ve seen has always fit perfectly. This stripped down presentation focuses all attention on the artist with no room for distractions.

COLORS is probably one of the best platforms for promotion of an artist as well as connecting that artist with fans both new and old. As I mentioned, their true home is YouTube but I know I’m not the only one who discovered COLORS via a Retweet. Through this, fans can show their admiration of an artist by tweeting the video of their performance. Other fans will of course retweet the video and before you know it, the mentions become filled with replies of “Who is this?” and just like that new fans are created. Sometimes the artist will premiere a new song on the platform and not release it until their upcoming album. This, once again, creates promo for the artist and the anticipation from their fanbase only makes the view and share count on the performance go up more and more. Seeing your favorite artist on COLORS is always a treat and a surprise. Seeing the preview the day before the video is uploaded gets fans excited and builds anticipation.

The monotone signature style of COLORS is definitely its claim to fame. The aesthetics are crisp and clean with excellent quality both not only visually but sonically as well. Another great aspect of COLORS is the variety of artists they have. Being that they are based in Berlin, Germany there are a lot of European artists showcased on the platform. However, there have been artists we in America know and love on there too such as Doja Cat, Rico Nasty, J.I.D, Gunna, and more. COLORS prides themselves on the variety of artists they showcase as their site says “All COLORS, no genres.”

Check out some of my personal favorite COLORS performances below!

April + VISTA

J.I.D

Kali Uchis

Beast Coast Takeover Hits The Tonight Show

Beast Coast is a supergroup consisting of groups Pro Era, The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies – a total of 10 people. Chances are if you’re a hip hop head and you know anything about your Third Eye or government corruption, you probably first learned about it from these guys several years back. Tonight they made their debut TV performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Performing “Left Hand” their first single from their debut album they brought the lyric driven flows they are known to the stage backed by 3 screens and a junkyard like stage design. Clad in black and grey outfits that were a cross between streetwear and workwear the energy was just as high as the chemistry between everyone.

Check out the performance below!

Beast Coast’s  album should be dropping any day now and their Escape From New York Tour begins this Friday April 13th.

Netflix Announces Beyoncé Special

Today, Netflix announced that they will be releasing a two-hour special of behind the scenes footage of Beyoncé’s iconic 2018 Coachella performance.

Beyoncé was the first Black woman to ever headline the popular, annual festival. Her performance paid homage to Black history, culture, art, and expression. And now, viewers will be able to have a peek at how Beyonce’s historical performance graduated from a concept to a movement.

Watch the trailer for Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé below.


6LACK Brings East Atlanta to Hollywood on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Now, I don’t know about ya’ll but 80% of the artists that perform on late night shows are ones I am not familiar with. But, when there is one that I know and love, I’m sure to watch. Most recently NoName along with Saba and Smino killed it on The Tonight Show and Black Thought with a cut from his EP did too. But, Tuesday night across the country in Hollywood on Jimmy Kimmel Live it was 6LACK’s time to shine.

As expected, 6LACK delivered not just a performance but an experience. Drenched in white from head to toe against the dark moody lighting he stood out easily. The performance also featured a female dancer, park bench and side view of a bus. The band members could be seen “sitting” on the train along with passengers who all had on headphones. 6LACK and the woman went from sitting on the bench together to sitting on the train together as he rapped soulfully. By the song’s conclusion he was sitting on the bench while she sat on the train as the reflection in the window made it appear that he was sitting on the train. Truly a unique yet intimate performance from the East Atlanta native.

Watch the performance below!

Anderson .Paak Brings Summer Vibes to SNL

Saturday Night Live continues to give us fire musical guests this season and tonight we were treated to the smooth sounds of Anderson .Paak. With Oxnard dropping only weeks go this stage is the first one on his promo run. Posted behind his signature drumset he performed the single “Tints” first as Kendrick emerged to do his guest verse and disappeared as easily as he entered. .Paak’s second song “Who R U?” gave off a totally different vibe as he was drenched in red lighting with a red background as blue lights flashed in time with the song.

Watch both performances below!

Lil Wayne Continues Carter V Run with SNL Performance

If you’ve been living under a rock you may not know this but, Lil Wayne released Tha Carter V this year. After merchandise collabs with Wikipedia (yes that Wikipedia)  and more, he continues his promo run tonight with two performances on Saturday Night Live.

The first song he did was “Can’t Be Broken” and had Halsey performing her emotional hook live. The second one was the one we were all waiting for: Uproar. With Swizz Beatz doing his ad lib and hypeman thing and a crowd doing every dance we’ve done to the song in the background behind him Wayne killed his performance. However as per usual his outfit was unique to say the least. 

Watch both performances below! 

Travis Scott Takes Us to ASTROWORLD in SNL Performance

On October 6 Travis Scott transformed the SNL stage into his own personal Astroworld. Performing the tracks “Skeletons” and “Astrothunder” viewers could see vibrant theme park style lights and smoke enveloping the stage. Positioned behind him on the left was a rotating carousel horse with a model, to continue the Astroworld theme. Seem crazy? Well positioned behind him on the right was long time collaborator producer Mike Dean as well as Kevin Parker of Tame Impala and John Mayer. The heavy hitters came together to create a very sonically pleasing performance. Watch it below!

Video via YouTube

 Travis also performed fan favorite “Sicko Mode” as a waterfall like affect covered the stage to begin the performance. In this waterfall we can see images of fellow Houston artist DJ Screw, who has a song dedicated to him on ASTROWORLD. For the majority of the performance we get a top down camera angle of Travis in a rollercoaster car rotating around, adding even more depth to the Astroworld theme.  Watch the performance below!

Video via YouTube

 Do these performances get you excited for Travis’ upcoming tour?

J. I. D Premieres New Track “Working Out” on COLORS

If you’ve been sleeping on Dreamville signee J.I.D, this is the year he’s gonna wake you up. After dropping the high energy frenzy of flow that was his track “151 Rum” last month he returns with the next single “Working Out” which takes a much more somber and introspective approach. It’s safe to say his upcoming album DiCaprio 2 will be diverse and layered as one would except from an artist of his caliber. 

Watch the performance below!