Beyoncé’s interview with Solange is further proof black girls are magic
It’s time we put some respect on Solange’s name. Long before A Seat at the Table Solange was a visionary. Convincing Interview magazine to have her big sister Beyoncé interview her for its February cover story is just further prove.
There’s something intimate about two sisters — specifically black singers who released two of last year’s best albums with a focus on womanhood and blackness — having a conversation about artistry and controlling one’s own image and growing up in the south and feeling free. Over Beyoncé’s 15 year career media has oftentimes casted Solange as a girl only in her sister’s shadow. More harmful narratives from mostly white media has painted her as jealous and angry — a singer who shouldn’t “bite the hand that feeds her” as New York Times writer Jon Caramanica offensively put it. But those of us who remember her radical visuals in “I Decided” from the 2008 album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams knew she was something special. We saw her individuality, an artist who knew she had something valuable to convey. She had a voice.
That voice may have only reached mainstream’s attention with her No. 1 album A Seat at the Table, but many of us always knew she had that magic. That black girl regalness that’s always imitated but never duplicated. It’s what the brilliant Zora Neale Hurston referred to as “Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those who got it, can’t hide it.” Solange was never hiding, people were just late too the party. Beyoncé knew too. Bey is her sister’s number one fan and one of the only people who has been with Solange literally from the inception. That’s why this interview between two successful sisters, two black women who’ve carved out their own lanes in white entertainment industry, is gold. Get into the best parts of the Interview conversation.
BEYONCÉ: No, not at all. [both laugh] I remember thinking, “My little sister is going to be something super special,” because you always seemed to know what you wanted. And I’m just curious, where did that come from?
SOLANGE: I have no idea, to be honest! I always knew what I wanted. We damn sure know that I wasn’t always right. [both laugh] But I’d sit firm, whether I was right or wrong. I guess a part of that was being the baby of the family and being adamant that, in a house of five, my voice was being heard. Another part is that I remember being really young and having this voice inside that told me to trust my gut. And my gut has been really, really strong in my life. It’s pretty vocal and it leads me. Sometimes I haven’t listened, and those times didn’t end up very well for me. I think all of our family—you and mom—we’re all very intuitive people. A lot of that comes through our mother, her always following her gut, and I think that spoke to me really loudly at a young age and encouraged me to do the same.
BEYONCÉ: Well, it brought tears to my eyes to hear both of our parents speak openly about some of their experiences. And what made you choose Master P to speak on the album?
SOLANGE: Well, I find a lot of similarities in Master P and our dad.
BEYONCÉ: Me, too. [laughs]
SOLANGE: One of the things that was really, really deep for me in talking to Dad is his experience of having the community choose you [as one of the first students to integrate his Southern elementary and junior high school]—to do that, to go out and be the warrior and the face of that is just such an incredible amount of pressure. And to evolve from that and still have your sense of independence and still have your stride and your strength, and to dream big enough that you can create something from the ground up bigger than any community, neighborhood, or those four corners … I remember reading or hearing things about Master P that reminded me so much of Dad growing up. And they also have an incredible amount of love and respect for one another. And I wanted a voice throughout the record that represented empowerment and independence, the voice of someone who never gave in, even when it was easy to lose sight of everything that he built, someone invested in black people, invested in our community and our storytelling, in empowering his people. You and I were raised being told not to take the first thing that came our way, to build our own platforms, our own spaces, if they weren’t available to us. And I think that he is such a powerful example of that.
BEYONCÉ: What does the song title “Cranes in the Sky” mean?
SOLANGE: “Cranes in the Sky” is actually a song that I wrote eight years ago. It’s the only song on the album that I wrote independently of the record, and it was a really rough time. I know you remember that time. I was just coming out of my relationship with Julez’s father. We were junior high school sweethearts, and so much of your identity in junior high is built on who you’re with. You see the world through the lens of how you identify and have been identified at that time. So I really had to take a look at myself, outside of being a mother and a wife, and internalize all of these emotions that I had been feeling through that transition. I was working through a lot of challenges at every angle of my life, and a lot of self-doubt, a lot of pity-partying. And I think every woman in her twenties has been there—where it feels like no matter what you are doing to fight through the thing that is holding you back, nothing can fill that void. I used to write and record a lot in Miami during that time, when there was a real estate boom in America, and developers were developing all of this new property. There was a new condo going up every ten feet. You recorded a lot there as well, and I think we experienced Miami as a place of refuge and peace. We weren’t out there wilin’ out and partying. I remember looking up and seeing all of these cranes in the sky. They were so heavy and such an eyesore, and not what I identified with peace and refuge. I remember thinking of it as an analogy for my transition—this idea of building up, up, up that was going on in our country at the time, all of this excessive building, and not really dealing with what was in front of us. And we all know how that ended. That crashed and burned. It was a catastrophe. And that line came to me because it felt so indicative of what was going on in my life as well. And, eight years later, it’s really interesting that now, here we are again, not seeing what’s happening in our country, not wanting to put into perspective all of these ugly things that are staring us in the face.
BEYONCÉ: Your voice on the album, the tone of your voice, the vulnerability in your voice and in your arrangements, the sweetness and the honesty and purity in your voice—what inspired you to sing in that tone?
SOLANGE: It was very intentional that I sang as a woman who was very in control, a woman who could have this conversation without yelling and screaming, because I still often feel that when black women try to have these conversations, we are not portrayed as in control, emotionally intact women, capable of having the hard conversations without losing that control. I had not really explored my falsetto as much on previous works. As you said, I have always loved Minnie Riperton, and I loved Syreeta Wright and really identified with a few of her songs that she and Stevie Wonder did. She was saying some really tough shit, but the tone of her voice was so sweet that you could actually hear her more clearly. I wanted to find a happy medium, feeling like I was being direct and clear, but also knowing that this was a conversation that I was very much in control of—able to have that moment, to exist in it, to live in it and ponder it, not to yell and scream and fight my way through it—I was doing enough of that in my life, so I wanted to make a clear distinction of me controlling that narrative. Aaliyah was also a huge influence and has always been. Her vocal arrangements with Static Major are some of my favorite in the world.
BEYONCÉ: You have an ability to see things before they happen that I’ve never really seen in anyone else as consistently as you do. You always know the new artists two years before they come out. Or the new DJs or producers or the new fashion brands … How do you do that?
SOLANGE: I’m probably on the internet way more than I should be. [both laugh] I don’t know. I love connecting people. I love introducing people to other people who are doing incredible work in the world. And I’m just on the internet too damn much. [laughs]
BEYONCÉ: That I know. When do you feel most free?
SOLANGE: When I’m in a musical meditation.
BEYONCÉ: And, honestly, growing up, how did I do as a big sister?
SOLANGE: You did a kickass job. You were the most patient, loving, wonderful sister ever. In the 30 years that we’ve been together, I think we’ve only really, like, butted heads … we can count on one hand.
Her full thoughts on being a strong woman, producing the album, meeting Nas and so much more are worth the read.