When Beyoncé shows up unexpectedly, everyone starts talking. Fans, critics, bloggers, cats, dogs, me. Everyone! She knows how to start a conversation. She literally said it in her latest song, Formation which was released this past Saturday randomly (“You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.”) Well technically, it wasn’t exactly that random. It was one day after Trayvon Martin’s birthday and one day before the Superbowl, where she made a bold and dynamic appearance in Coldplay’s set, paying homage to the Black Panthers and the King of Pop. Despite the very strategic timing, Formation was a major surprise and made an incredibly huge impact. You can do a simple google search to see the 23829083209 reviews, critiques, reactions, analyses on every aspect of this song and video, some written within minutes after its release. If you haven’t viewed it and wonder what all the hoopla is all about, just push play below:
As you can see, Bey showed up and showed out in her latest video, giving us a lovely blend of ratchet-ness and righteousness. Formation is the type of song that makes you want to twerk and pump your fist with Black pride, the type of song that makes you want to eat cheddar bay biscuits with some hot sauce on them, the type of song that makes you want to rock personalized bangle earrings and a supersized fro. To sum it up, this song had me feeling like…
However, this is not the first time I felt like this recently. Beyoncé is just one of many mainstream Black artists that are simply not giving any more fucks about sharing their pride and their frustration as Black Americans through their art. Within the past few years, I’ve been noticing a subtle yet growing trend of popular Black artists putting their Blackness in plain view without any filter. Let’s list some shining examples, shall we?
1. Usher is sick and tired of being in chains. With all the craziness surrounding Bey, you may not have noticed that another superstar recently shed his typical R&B/Pop swag to release a protest video. Four days before Formation, Usher shared a moving visual for his song, Chains. In unabashed fashion, the singer stepped brazenly into the role of a victim of police brutality. Last year, the streaming site, Tidal presented the song, featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly, as an interactive experience, forcing the viewer to look at the faces of victims, while Usher sings, “I am so tired. I have enough running. Don’t give a fuck. I have enough.” Do I need to say anything else? I think not. View the video below and be a part of the interactive experience HERE.
2. “I just want to be free.” – J Cole. Late Night with David Letterman was one of the most popular late-night talk shows in America. In fact, when Letterman said his final farewell on May 20, 2015, over 13 million viewers said their collective goodbye as well. It is safe to say that this show was one of the cornerstones of American entertainment. Cole, who just released his latest album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive at the time, could’ve used this major opportunity as a promotional tool. However, he didn’t. Brilliantly, he used it as a platform to cry out on behalf of his community who felt and continues to feel targeted, forgotten, abused and broken down for far too long. With a chilling one-time performance of his Michael Brown tribute song, Be Free, Cole was able to capture the resounding cries and deeply rooted pain of Blacks all around the world. Watch below and don’t tell me you don’t sense the lack of fucks he gave while performing this in front of a predominately White audience.
3. To Pimp A Butterfly. I am not sure if I need to say anything more but I will anyway. The artist is Kendrick Lamar. He released one of the most critically acclaimed and Black-as-hell albums of 2015, To Pimp A Butterfly. Alright, one of his hits from the album, became a protest song for the Black Lives Matter movement. Furthermore, he has been giving no fucks while promoting this album. Similar to Cole, Kendrick has been performing tracks that were never even on the album nor released to the general public but still has that pro-Black, pro-Soul, pro-Jazz, pro-Grandmama’s grits, pro-Posing-in-front-of-the-White-House-with-the-homies feel to it. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you listen to the full album HERE and watch his latest amazing performance of Untitled 2 on another major American late-night show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon below.
So in conclusion, Beyoncé was not the originator of the recent No Fucks, I’m Mainstream and I’m Black and I’m Proud club. However, she joined the growing movement with one of the biggest stings to hit the mainstream since Michael Jackson’s Remember The Time, only fitting for a Queen Bee.