If you are anything like me, your Friday has been filled with wiggles at your desk. It's possible that like me, you also had to go to work today even though Bey blessed our ears with an album. Though I couldn't make it to the drop last night (my friends will comically tell you how easy it is for me for fall asleep mid-sentence), I started my morning routine with The Lion King: The Gift.
There are few greater feelings for me than listening to an album for the first time and enjoying each track. I practically glided down the halls of my apartment complex and pranced to the bus stop. With interludes from the film in between some of the songs, Pride Rock expands into the modern Afrobeat music scene.
In her own words, Queen Bey says "this soundtrack is a love letter to Africa and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it." I hope when you hear Beyoncé iterate this, you recognize that she sees these artists for their grind, their heat, and flavor. Yes, Bey is putting some of these artists on a commercial platform that is larger than you might know, but many of these artists are killing the game right now! Where Beyoncé might have a longer career and greater access to some things, she's letting y'all know what we been known: don't sleep on Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Shatta, Yemi Alade, and Wiz Kid (to name a few). Also, take a minute to read through some of the African designers Beyoncé worked with for the "Spirit" music video.
In the past two years, with the release of both Homecoming and Lion King: The Gift, Beyoncé solidifies her place as an amplifier of Black experiences, both domestic and global. From the nod to African-American history and culture on a stage as big as Coachella to the production, artistry, and languages featured on The Lion King: The Gift , Beyoncé is letting those of you who need to know in case you didn't that Africa is a continent: a people of many peoples, languages, cultures. Many critical scholars, theologians, and Beyhive-ologists have commented on Beyoncé's increasingly politically Black pivot so I won't belabor the point here, but I will acknowledge how much of the culture she continues to put her spotlight on.
It's not lost on me that this particular moment is taking place in 2019, the year that marks the 400th anniversary of the Transatlantic slave trade. On "Find Your Way Back," she invokes both African and African-American imagery when she sings "Find your way back. Big, big world, but you got it, baby. Find your way back, don't let this life drive you crazy...Find your way back, come back home with the street lights on." Didn't our mamas order us home with them streetlights? As a Haitian-American, I can say that many of the traditional African instrumentals remind me of Kompa and other Caribbean music because Diaspora runs deep and the musical elements are present in a lot of Caribbean genres.
The Lion King: The Gift encapsulates everything I love about being part of the African diaspora: affirmations about my beauty as a Brown Skin Girl, letting me know it's okay to rock both confidence and cockiness, calling out haters when necessary, being vulnerable about feeling insecure and lost, and most importantly, reminding me that we belong to a people and tradition that is centuries old, continents wide, and generationally tied.
I dive a little deeper into some of my favorite moments from this album here.