It all began at the half-time show of this year’s Super Bowl game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. The half-time performance was a joint one with Bruno Mars and Beyonce.
Beyonce, clad in Black leather booty shorts and topped with a bevy of female dancers, looked as if they were emulating a r-rated version of The Black Panther Party For Self-Defence and The M.G.T. (Muslim Girl Training) during her performance of “Formation”, the album’s first single.
Although the modesty of both the Panthers and the M.G.T. is a far cry from the sexualized attire Sasha Fierce and her dancers sported on the field in Santa Clara, California, for Super Bowl 50, it was still enough to make “white folks” nervous.
Hell, even angry for some, including the Police Brotherhood all over the United States, who now refused to provide security for Beyonce during her “Formation Tour” because the track’s music video features Beyonce sinking a police cruiser into the water in response to the recent epidemic of police officers across North America shooting and killing unarmed Black males.
Interesting enough, the lyrics to “Formation” are of the revolutionary sort. Just typical hip-hop like braggadocio lines like: “I just might be a Black Bill Gates in the making.” But bubbling under “Formation” are lyrics like: “I like my baby heir with baby hair and Afros, I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils.”
So then what’s all the fuss with “Lemonade”?
Originally released as an hour-long video on HBO last month, “Lemonade” has had fans wondering about all sorts of aspects of her personal life. The video is broken up into ten parts, directed by ten different directors that accompany the traditional album format.
There are songs on “Lemonade” that seem to speak about infidelity in her marriage with rapper Jay-Z. Many have been clamouring that this is her manifesto that her marriage has fallen apart in light of [her husband’s] unfaithfulness. I won’t even touch that. I’ll just quote lyrics from the album cut she croons over haunting strings on “Pray You Catch Me”: “You can taste the dishonesty, It’s all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier, but even that’s a test, constantly aware of it all, my lonely ear pressed against the walls of your world.”
The catchy reggae meets baroque “Hold Up” has Bey declaring: “What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you…”
In the video portion on the album, the chapter/piece has her wondering about her own eulogy, or possibly somebody else’s: “So what are you gonna say at my funeral now that you killed me? Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children, both living and dead. Rest in peace my true love, who I took for granted.”
Heartaches aside, Beyonce also touches on socially conscious concepts, even sampling a Malcolm X speech from the 1960s. Inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner are depicted in the accompanying video. There are even references to African Yoruba culture.
On “Freedom,” she sings: “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move, Freedom cut me loose! Singin’ Freedom! Freedom! Where are you, Cause I need freedom Too.” The ever so conscious Kendrick Lamar joins her on this one.
Other guests on “Lemonade” include The Weeknd, James Blake and rocker Jack White.
The spacey funk of “Lemonade” is a nice departure from the monotony of contemporary r`n`b, and makes for a fresh change. And in the case of Beyonce may make for a fresh start!
Rating = 7/10
“Struggle Love” – Jaheim – Julia’s Dream Records
New Jersey’s Jaheim may have seen his career stalled somewhat in the area of mainstream acceptance by a simple marketing snafu: album titles.
Discovered over 15 years ago by Kay Gee, formerly of legendary hip-hop group Naughty By Nature, many may have thought Jaheim was also a hip-hop artist.
His debut album released in 2001 was called “Ghetto Love.” His sophomore set, released the following year, was called “Still Ghetto.” “Ghetto Classics” followed in 2006, probably leading many to believe that along with his unshaven rugged look that he was a rapper and not the Teddy Pendergrass/Johnny Gill/ Christopher Williams-inspired soulful gruff crooner that he is.
Seven albums deep in the game, he releases “Struggle Love” on his own Julia’s Dream label, named in honour of his mother.
“Struggle Love” kicks off with the laid back jeep beat of “My Shoes” (Featuring NiXta) where he croons to his possible detractors or haters: “It’s written on your face that you want to take my place.” He’s almost taking an m.c.’s-like attitude and approach to protecting his r’n’b territory which, with peeps like D’angelo, Anthony Hamilton and Raphael Saadiq, he has on lockdown anyway.
The similarly-sounding title track and albums first single has an ordinary musical arrangement, but is saved by Jaheim’s A1 vocal chops.
Jaheim cooks up a storm on “Speak Up”, about conjugal violence. This neo soul sizzler fueled by stanky organ fills with Jaheim singing: “Honey don’t be the victim, he’s abusive, explain the bumps and bruises, ain’t nobody stupid, we know what he’s doin’ to ya.”
The gorgeous “One By One”, about loss and death with the lyrics: “The good die one” is almost eerie in light of Prince’s recent passing.
However, “Nights Like This” is representative of most of this album.
Production and musical arrangements do not make the listener take notice, but it is saved by the extraordinary voice of one of today’s rare r’n’b lions.
Rating = 7/10