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.

The 5 Best Album Rollouts of 2018 & What to Expect For the Year Ahead

2018 was a great year for music especially in Hip Hop and R&B. Let’s walk through the best album rollouts of 2018 and what albums we can expect for the new year.

  1. Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Summer

The rollout of Kanye’s G.O.O.D Summer started off with the polarizing figure’s return to Twitter. It was then followed by infamous sound bites and the rapper seemingly aligning himself with the 45th President. Somewhere in between the chaos, Kanye revealed that he would be releasing 5 separate albums from G.O.O.D Music artists. Much anticipated albums from Nas, Teyana Taylor, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, and West himself lined up the series. Though the series was heavily critiqued and ditched out some tough disappointments (see: Nasir), each project produced strong first week numbers and debuted on Billboard’s Top 200 list.

Lesson Learned: Never underestimate the power of Twitter.

2. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy

When Cardi B finished 2017 with number 1 single, Bodak Yellow, everyone was on the edge of the their seats waiting to see if she could match the single’s success. She started 2018 releasing a bedazzled vintage single cover and video to promote Bartier Cardi. The video featured husband Offset, reminiscent of Beyoncé’s Partition. After that, she released Be Careful, which showed her versatility as an artist. And her record Drip with Migos dropped the same week her album did. Cardi’s consistent head-nodding club singles were able to keep everyone’s attention until the album release. High profile appearances like the Alexa Super Bowl commercial didn’t hurt either. ‘Invasion of Privacy’ turned out to be one of the top 3 selling albums last year.

Lesson Learned: Great singles keeps everyone’s attention.

3. Drake- Scorpion

Drake’s release of ‘Scorpion’ was marked with a steady flow of viral singles that swept the nation. The 1-million dollar music video for God’s Plan currently has almost 1-billion views on Youtube. God’s Plan was followed by I’m Upset and Nice For What. A month before Drake’s album was to be released, he entered a rap beef with Pusha T as a response to the Kanye West produced track, Infrared. Surprisingly, Pusha T won. Drake was forced to back down after Pusha T exposed him for doing blackface and allegedly neglecting to take care of his baby. The rap beef boosted Pusha T’s streaming numbers and introduced him to a pop fan base. It also helped Drake stay relevant until ‘Scorpion’ was dropped in June. In My Feelings unexpectedly went viral after the album release and became the song of the summer.

Lesson Learned: Rap beefs are good publicity if you’re able to come out of it alive.

4. EVERYTHING IS LOVE- The Carters

When Beyoncé and Jay-Z announced their OTR II tour, everyone expected new music to drop. But it didn’t. The tour started and the duo did several shows without any new music giving fans the impression that OTR II was simply just that- on the run part 2. Many began to even speculate that it was a publicity stunt to recover Jay-Z’s image. But in true surprise by the originator herself, the duo’s first collab album dropped in June. The couple premiered the Apesh*t song and video during their London tour stop. The words ALBUM OUT NOW appeared on the screen at the conclusion of the video. The album exclusively streamed on Tidal for two days before hitting Spotify and Apple music. Apesh*t is nominated for Best Music Video for this year’s Grammy Awards.

Lesson Learned: Go on tour first, drop music later.

5. J. Cole- KOD

J. Cole’s album rollout was as simple as the rapper portrays himself to be these days. Without fuss. He gave fans same week notice via social media that his album would be dropping that Friday. He then proceeded to host first come, first serve listening parties. While this could have been a risky move for an artist that seemed to be in hiding and cocooning, Cole solidified his superstar status and capitalized on his fan base by rolling out KOD this way.

Lesson Learned: If you continue to cater to your core fan base, anything is possible.

Ultimately, what we’ve learned from album rollouts in 2018 is that there are no more rules to this. You can drop on Twitter, on tour, same day notice on Tuesday and still be successful. The more creative the better. It’s the authenticity that counts. When Kanye West snapped the album cover for ‘Ye’ on his way to the listening party, it was against all industry rules. But, it worked. And we can expect to see more of that pure, raw energy in music. Artists and their delivery no longer have to be cookie-cutter and by the book.

Moving forward in 2019, we can expect to see highly anticipated projects from a few veterans of the game.

  1. Rick Ross

In November, Rick Ross responded to Lebron James and confirmed that he was in the final stages of ‘Port of Miami 2’. However, don’t hold your breath. He made it clear to the NBA player that creating classics takes time.

2. Nas

In an interview with Angie Martinez, Nas confirmed that he has another album on the way. We’re assuming its the album he spoke of on 2016 DJ Khaled track, Nas Album Done.

3. Solange

Last October, Solange told the New York Times that her follow up to ‘A Seat At The Table’ would be dropping in the Fall. However, no such thing happened. It still keeps us on notice that a fully developed Solange album exists and is just waiting for a release date.

What albums are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.