Black is King is a visual follow up of Beyonce’s previous album The Lion King: The Gift. Her last album symbolized newborn Simba – a young boy who went on a journey of life and discovered himself along the way meanwhile Beyonce acted as his muse and midwifed him through this expedition.
Her new album – currently dominating all the charts, holds both monetary as well as a cultural value. It represents the black audience that is often overshadowed or neglected by the community itself. The album is visually bewitching and compels us to give attention to the diverse experiences of the multifaceted black people in history.
The question “who are you?” is repeated throughout the album making it clear that this album is about the black community and what they think of one another whereas the folks outside this community are welcome to observe. It’s evident that this album is made for the blacks as the white people are warned that they’re not the centre of attention here.
This is the beauty of Beyonce – she has the ability to capture the essence of a movement before it even floods the mainstream channels. Her art becomes popular and redefines public imagery. It is evident from her latest album release – she wants her viewers to embrace modern Blackness.
The album titled Black is King premiered on 31st July and has forever imprinted in our minds what it means to be black in the modern era. This Blackness was constructed on an ancient but multifaceted history that isn’t limited to or begins with the transatlantic slave trade.
Have you heard about the ancient philosophies originated from the Akan, Congolese and Dogon tribes of western Africa? They’ve recently been renamed as Afrofuturism and reimagined by the African artists and writers like Octavia Butler, George Clinton, N.K. Jemisin, etc. This philosophy was also celebrated in the 2018 Marvel movie Black Panther. Now, what does this mean, the complete reimagination of a philosophy?
It’s the way of life, isn’t it? Understanding the past only to understand and predict the way of being in the future? We imagine ourselves in the future based on the grounding principles of the past. Hence, this new album touches upon the similar parameters of the past, present, and future of Black history.
However, Afrofuturism is more than that for the Blacks as it urges the Black community to recover from their bloody past and create a future that is beyond anybody’s imagination. It’s been a long times since the Blacks have been marginalized and overlooked. It’s time that we take the future in our own hands and make it as we like.
However, Black Is King has found itself amidst controversy as people believe that it’s largely a façade and romanticizes the Africa of yesterday. Harsh criticism has come its way because people believe it completely disregards the situation and view of Africa today. This is a commonality between Black Is King the album and Afrofuturism the renewed philosophy.
The album is brave, to be honest. It takes on the concrete and factually proven believe that many African Americans have developed a nostalgic association with Africa so as to reconnect with their past – a past that they lost during the transatlantic slave trade. Blacks today find escapism in the cultural products that allow them to heal the generational trauma instead of accepting the realistic portrayal of modern day Africa.
With this album, Beyonce has created a pop culture movement that adds fuel to the difficult conversations. She urges people to take the initiative and talk about the actual problems that we have today. This album isn’t simply giving more content to the critics to debate on.
It was obviously a conscious decision from Beyonce’s end to make this album hyper-black. However, by following her intuition, she also suggested that she no longer aims for a mass appeal by pandering to the White gaze.
Beyonce has worked immensely hard and has gradually paved a successful road for herself – a journey that is only hers and hers alone. From her days working in Destiny’s Child to becoming her own with the 2016 release “Lemonade”, today Beyonce can afford to make expensive audiovisuals that are focused on her individual identity and other explorations of the Black culture.
Despite the decrease in the overall album sales, her influence as a pop culture icon has never been questioned. She is an example of how you don’t need to cater to the White audience to be empowered and affluent.
Through Black Is King, Beyonce makes a statement by imparting support to the cultural development of the black community all over the world. This album truly solidifies her Queen B title and the status of superstar with no full stop.