Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter told us that her new album, The Lion King: The Gift, was going to be a love letter to Africa.
The fact she made this entire album for the live-action release of The Lion King made it clear she was being seriouss. Everything about the track list and the artists who she chose to feature on the album made it clear that she wasn’t playing around.
But nothing could have prepared us for the pure perfection that this album actually is.
Queen Bey completely delivered on her promise to find ‘the best talent from Africa’ and to let them shine, rather than just use some of the sounds and create her own interpretation.
‘I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa,’ she said in an interview with ABC. And boy, did she come all the way through.
The album only features four songs with Beyoncé singing solo on the track, and naturally they are sensational. We don’t expect anything less from Bey at this point.
The songs are a love letters to the young Beyoncé who fell in love with The Lion King, to her children Blue, Rumi and Sire, to the Beyhive and even to her father, Matthew Knowles.
But the album really makes it mark thanks to the wonderful African artists who completely slay on their tracks.
From Wizkid’s beautiful lyrics and vocals on his and Bey’s collaboration, Brown Skin Girl, to Burna Boy’s Naijia swagger on JA ARA E tracks are instant classics. Don’t even get me started on the way Tiwa Savage and Mr Eazi just won everything with Keys To The Kingdom.
Don’t Jealous Me and Mood 4 Eva lyrics are going to be popping up on Instagram everywhere you turn and honestly, you love to see it.
Beyoncé is fully aware of her power and her impact, and the fact she is using it to bring Afrobeats to the western mainstream in this way is a sign of the legacy she wants to leave.
As a Nigerian, I’ve been aware of Beyoncé’s growing love and respect for the motherland. Back in 2009, she revealed her ancestors were Nigerian and as a gift to the crowd, she sang the Nigerian anthem for them.
Since then she created a play about the life of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti, as well as paying homage to him in photoshoots and tracks like End of Time.
While we’ve seen her make reference to many African goddesses, imagery and traditions.
In fact, she was once working on an ‘African’ album inspired by Fela, but now she’s actualised her dream by working with the new generation of artists who spreading a new wave of Afrobeats across the continent.
Everything about album makes the listeners proud to be black, proud to have African heritage, proud at the fact we never stop slaying despite the countless ways other has tried to dim our light.
For a while there was a bit of disconnect between the motherland and diaspora, but there is no better way to show we work best together than this wonderful merging of music and culture.
Hearing the likes of Pharrell, Tierra Whack, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled and Childish Gambino working their magic alongside African artists and beats truly is a gift.
‘We’ve kind of created our own genre and I feel like the soundtrack is the first soundtrack where it becomes visual in your in your mind,’ Bey explained to ABC. ‘The soundscape is more than just the music because each song tells the story of the film.’
The album ends with Spirit and while I wasn’t moved by it on first listen last week, it hit in a completely different way after listening to the entire album. Suddenly my mind could picture the plains of Africa, hear the rustling of the leaves, feel the heat of the burning sun and sense the majesty of the beautiful animals that also call it home.
I finally allowed myself to watch the video after hearing the album and once again had to marvel at just how well Beyoncé has executed every part of this project.
‘Each song was written to reflect the film’s storytelling that gives the listener a chance to imagine their own imagery, while listening to a new contemporary interpretation,’ she told Yahoo Finance.
‘It was important that the music was not only performed by the most interesting and talented artists but also produced by the best African producers. Authenticity and heart were important to me.’
In the space of 54 minutes, Beyoncé and a very talented group of artists manage to heal, uplift, strengthen and motivate every single person who is blessed with the gift of melanin.
And they did this through the power of making good, fun music that makes you want to dance. I’m not exaggerating when I say I literally felt energy flowing through me as I listened to the new girl power anthem, My Power.
The message of the album is crystal clear – Black is beautiful and we must work together to let the light of our motherland shine like it always deserved to.
Beyoncé, girl, you did the damn thing and we are so blessed to be able to bear witness to this momentous shift in the culture.
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