Solange Gave Us 'When I Get Home' After A Frustrating Black History Month
After a Black History Month filled with societal strife, Solange’s new music is a salve of Black sisterhood, resilience, and power.
Art by Leila Ettachfini
At midnight, between the close of the last day of Black History Month and the start of Women’s History Month, Solange Knowles released her fourth studio album, When I Get Home. The announcement of its release came via a tweet from Solange herself, only hours before the album hit streaming platforms. Just days before, Solange teased the project through releasing a slew of new promotional images via the resurrected Black millennial-focused social network site, Black Planet. But until she confirmed the release, fans had little context to what was happening — the artist had been radio silent on her social platforms for months aside from a random tweet now and then, with no clues to when her next project would actually drop.
Once she started becoming active again, whatever was about to be released didn’t matter—Solange was coming, and that’s all her fans needed to hear.Reaction from fans on social media was instantaneous, with curiosity about the album's title, its visuals (that included a woman on a stripper pole), and the music itself.“The rollout for When I Get Home was so genius because Solange tapped into the nostalgia that speaks directly to us,” Sydney Scott, ESSENCE’s assistant entertainment editor tells Broadly. “Black Planet, a shoutout to Mike Jones—these are experiences and music that Black people, specifically, know and love. She knew exactly who she wanted to speak to.”
Marjua Estevez, BET Digitial’s features editor agrees, assessing the rollout as a way of Solange reclaiming the Black narrative in an unconventional way. “When I Get Home simultaneously caps Black History Month and ushers in Women’s History Month 2019,” she says. “A clandestine approach, Solo emerges from a nearly three-year hiatus via Black Planet, an African-American social networking service, in which she likely revives the original social media platform, furthering her FUBU modus operandi.”
Black women who are fans of Solange, in particular, have been eagerly awaiting new music since she released her critically acclaimed A Seat At The Table in 2016. The album won a Grammy and Billboard Music award; released stunning visuals inspired by Ghanaian-British painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; lyrically confronted the everyday battles of modern racism in a contentious election year; and helped solidify Solange as thought-leader who addressed agency and ownership in the Black community.
In a way, A Seat At The Table provided a voice of bittersweet relatability that millennial Black women hadn’t previously heard. Writer Kara Brown described for The Muse the record as “[Tracing] the current journey being traveled by Black millennials—one where we’re largely removed from many of the exact ills and injustices of our parents and grandparents, yet we still watch Black bodies pile up in the street, Black bodies overpopulate prisons, and Black labor continue to go undervalued.”
Solange’s third studio album beautifully narrated some of the most complex elements of being Black and proud. To her most loyal fans and listeners (re: Black women), her elevated star power and status meant that for once, the everyday trials and tribulations of Black womanhood were being unabashedly heard on a mainstream level.
In “Don’t Touch My Hair” Black women mimicked a sigh of relief, that finally, someone was saying what so often had to be kept inside for the sake of not coming off as extravagantly angry. In “Mad," Solange’s collaboration with Lil Wayne, she effortlessly confronts the never-ending microaggressions that Black people experience daily and the havoc it wreaks on their mental health. Every track was an intimate chapter into Solange’s life not as a superstar, but as an everyday Black woman. Its honesty, intimacy, and relatability made the album, and Solange herself, something that Black women held close, with no plans to let go.
Solange’s A Seat At The Table was a musical representation of her coming into her own—after years of writing for showcasing her often hidden vulnerabilities as, yes a Black woman, but also a mother, a lover, a daughter, sister, and a wife. Solange’s voice is physically soft, calming, and sweet, which makes her lyrical prowess even the more impressive—she never has had to raise her voice, to ensure her story was being heard. She speaks for the soft-spoken Black girls who are trying to figure out their story but nonetheless know the worth in their narrative.
On A Seat at the Table, Solange dedicated an entire song on the last album—”Borderline: An Ode To Self Care”—to the, at the time, a radical concept that Black women deserved to take emotional and physical breaks from the stress and strain that just existing in a white-run world brings.
“I wrote ['Borderline'] because I need to manifest it more in my life,” Solange told Tavi Gevinson for W Magazine. “Just for the sake of being able to exist in that day, to exist without rage, and exist without heartbreak. That song was an ode to how our home becomes a safe space, where we can just love and not deal with some of the intensities that go along with existing in these spaces.”
The timing of A Seat, right in the midst of the 2016 presidential race, where Black women were exhaustedly campaigning for the rights and betterment of all only to admit defeat to a Donald Trump win, was especially necessary. When Black women were at a point where it felt as if their own society was abandoning them, Solange’s music stood as a testament that no matter what, Black sisterhood never leaves.
While A Seat At The Table served as a melancholic but meaningful guidebook to surviving Black womanhood, When I Get Home, deemed an "exploration of origin," seems to promise a celebration—after all, Black women are far more than just their suffering. It’s evident in the Houston-centric promotional imagery—the low riders, the carefree cowboys, the beauty pageant-esque hair, and glittery cowboy boots. It’s clear from the samples—Diamond and Princess from Crime Mob, a poem from Pat Parker, and speeches from Alexyss K. Tylor.
Solange, like every Black woman, is complex and multifaceted and limited to no single standard or story. When I Get Home may just serve as Solange’s reminder to the world of how much Black women truly have to offer.