Double Jeopardy: Sounds of Black Feminism in Solange's "When I Get Home"

Released at midnight on March 1st, 2019, singer-songwriter Solange Knowles-Ferguson crossed the threshold from Black History Month to into Women’s History month with her new album When I Get Home.

 

​The highly anticipated follow up to her Grammy award winning 2016 third album A Seat At the Table, the 32 year old Houston native released her new music via surprise following a series of impromptu social media posts such as her recent new account on the African American centered social media site Black Planet and numerous clips and photos revealing the singer’s new project.

 

Sonically, the album seems to pick up where A Seat at the Table left off, invoking influences from psychedelic soul and alternative R&B. However, When I Get Home however is soaked in jazz, as indicated in a recent New York Times article coinciding with the album release.

 

​Taking cue from the album’s eighth track “Nothing Without Intention,” the carefully crafted release by Knowles goes deeper than mere intricate keys, notes, and notes. Her decision to release this project at the threshold of Black History Month and Women’s History Month once again speaks to the spirit of Black women, just as her third effort did three years earlier.

 

​As indicated in a recent article in Pitchfork, writer Michelle Kim points out that Knowles challenges the narrative by putting Black women at the forefront. She writes, “Like Master P and Solange’s parents serving as narrators of A Seat at the Table, the voices of an eclectic range of iconic Black women are weaved throughout…,” as evident in snippets in various tracks heard throughout the album, from actresses and fellow Houston natives Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen on the track “S McGregor”, to the late Black queer poet Pat Parker on the track “Exit Scott (interlude),” among others.

 

​This carefully-crafted cacophony of “vagina power,” referencing the voice of Alexyss Taylor, host of aforementioned-titled sex talk show, heard on the album’s twelfth track, “We Deal with the Freak’n (Interlude),” seems to answer the call made in activist and Black feminist Frances Beale’s famous work, “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female.” Written in 1969 and reprinted in 1970, Beal argues the role of the Black woman is the “scapegoat” at the intersection of race and gender. She later writes, “the new world that we are attempting to create must destroy oppression of any type…if we are going to liberate ourselves as a people, it must be recognized that Black women have very specific problems that have to be spoken to...unless Black men who are preparing themselves for an armed struggle understand that the society which we are trying to create is one in which oppression of all members of that society is eliminated, then the revolution will have failed in its avowed purpose.”

 

​This, perhaps, is the “intention” referenced by Knowles in her actions behind her account on the site Black Planet. Knowles is bringing Beale’s thesis to life by carving out a Black feminine place in a backdrop saturated largely by Black men, as evident in the contrasting elements of hard beats and chopped-and-screwed melodies, originated in her native Houston’s hip-hop scene. Her inclusion of male rappers such as Atlanta rappers Playboy Carti on the Houston-homage track “Almeda,” and Gucci Mane in the track “My Skin My Logo” also speaks to this. She holds her own and recites her “womanifesto” as she tangos with these hip-hop heavyweights. 

 

​At the core of this “Black Planet” of an album, Knowles presents a sonically thought-provoking agenda on the Black experience, much like what Bean argues, cared and nurtured by Black women

 

 

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