Solange Goes On An Exploration Of Origin With 'When I Get Home'

Mar 1, 2019
Originally published on March 1, 2019 6:38 pm

Two-and-a-half years after the release of A Seat At The Table, Solange shares her surprise CQ visual album When I Get Home. On Solange's fourth full-length album since her 2002 debut, Solo Star, the artist takes listeners on an "exploration of origin" across 19 tracks and a film meshing together static R&B, funk, Zydeco and blues. To accompany the release, Solange announced nine "album events" in her hometown of Houston, all taking place on March 3.

The release was preceded by a takeover of the early-aughts social networking site BlackPlanet.com, where the 32-year-old artist shared photographs and snippets of video depicting contrasting facets of Southern black life, presented in her signature, simultaneously avant-garde and down-home demeanor; chromed-out cowboy boots paired with bustiers, cornrowed black beauties, vintage Cadillacs, perfectly laid and purposely wack wigs, strippers busting splits on the pole, cowboys waiting on the rails of the bullpen.

When I Get Home is, at face value, a undeniable ode to Solange's own hometown of Houston, where it was recorded alongside a long list of notable collaborators. Keeping the theme Houston-as-hell, samples on the album include Devin The Dude, Scarface and Mike Jones. Other contributions on the album include Tyler, The Creator ("Down With The Clique"), Cassie ("Way To The Show") The-Dream ("Binz"), Gucci Mane ("My Skin My Logo") and more.

The slow burn of Solange's previous album, A Seat At The Table, included a months-long, festival-hopping world tour with a grandiose stage design inspired by the iconic sets of Earth, Wind & Fire, a commemorative book, and earning numerous accolades and awards. Off of first impressions, there seems little reason to expect any less with When I Get Home.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The artist Solange dropped a surprise new album at midnight last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAY TO THE SHOW")

SOLANGE: (Singing) Call me even on the way to the show.

SHAPIRO: Fans went wild. The album is called "When I Get Home," and it's a huge tribute to her hometown, Houston. Here to walk us through it is NPR Music's Sidney Madden. Hey there.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Hey. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: A lot of artists drop albums that we don't talk about on the radio. But Solange has become a kind of cultural touchstone, partly because of the way she speaks to the black experience, right?

MADDEN: Absolutely. I love how you said a cultural touchstone. When Solange does something, she does it intentionally and she does it big, and it creates a moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAY TO THE SHOW")

SOLANGE: (Singing) Uh huh, uh huh. You can get it.

MADDEN: For those who don't know, Solange is the younger sister of Beyonce. She's done years of songwriting and arranging for Destiny's Child, as well as herself as a soloist. But in these last two albums, she's really purposely diverged from a more pop-y sentiment to become this music maker and to realign the conversation of what it means to be a black woman living in America.

SHAPIRO: OK. So this 2016 album, "A Seat At The Table," had a song, "Don't Touch My Hair," which became...

MADDEN: Yes.

SHAPIRO: ...Almost an anthem. What do you hear on this new album, "When I Get Home?" I think one of the breakout songs for sure is going to be "Almeda."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALMEDA")

SOLANGE: (Singing) Pour my drinks on 'em. Baby, my mind. Sip.

SHAPIRO: Why? What is it about this song?

MADDEN: I hear great reclamation and ownership about black-created art forms, black spaces. You know? She does this laundry list of, like, black liquor, black skin, black leather.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALMEDA")

SOLANGE: (Singing) Black waves, black days, black baes, black things. These are black-owned things.

MADDEN: And it's like you can't even wash it away if you try. Like, you couldn't take away my culture from me even if you tried to.

SHAPIRO: How central is Houston, her hometown, to this album?

MADDEN: Oh, my gosh. It's - if we're going to talk about, like, the atmosphere of music and with this album, like, it's the nucleus, I would say. In every step of the way, in every song, there's a little love note or there's a little nod to a Houston rap legend, like Scarface or Devin the Dude.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLANGE SONG, "BINZ")

MADDEN: There's a song on there called "Binz," and it's a reference to a popular street in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLANGE SONG, "BINZ")

MADDEN: What I love most and what makes it an earworm for me is that it just meshes together reggae, and trap and a little bit of doo-wop and, yeah, it's undeniable.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BINZ")

SOLANGE: (Singing) Sun down, wind chimes. Break it down. One line, a line. Can't no see me no flex. Be kind. Dollars never show up...

SHAPIRO: The way she released this album was really interesting because she kind of reinvigorated a website that had been dormant or dead for years, BlackPlanet. Tell us about this.

MADDEN: Yeah. She'll keep you on your toes.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MADDEN: So BlackPlanet is this late-'90s, early 2000s social media site. And it really brought together a niche community of black people just looking to connect online.

SHAPIRO: Did you have a BlackPlanet profile, Sidney?

MADDEN: I will plead the Fifth on that one, Ari.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter). OK. Enough said.

MADDEN: But I think by hosting and announcing that the new album was going to come on BlackPlanet, it was kind of like a nod - like, you know who this is for.

SHAPIRO: Is there one more song you think we should end on?

MADDEN: Yeah. I think we should take it out with "Sound Of Rain."

SHAPIRO: OK. Sidney Madden of NPR Music. Thanks a lot.

MADDEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOUND OF RAIN")

SOLANGE: (Singing) Let's go. Nobody taking a joke like me. So nobody dress can... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.