With a career approaching the 20 year mark, Solange debuted in the early 2000s with contemporary R&B and has since grown into an artist releasing works reflecting upon systemic racism, femininity, romance, and self-image.

"I remember having so much perspective about my voice, and how to use my voice, at such a young age—whether it was through dance, poetry, or coming up with different projects."

Beginnings


On June 24, 1986, The Knowles family grew to four as Solange Piaget Knowles was born in Houston to sales-manager Mathew and salon-owner Tina Knowles. Solange was born five years following the arrival of sister Beyoncé. Early in childhood, Solange found a love in songwriting, dance, and theater. However, her artistic endeavors were placed on the back burner as the focus as placed on the growing career of her sister, Beyoncé. Knowles’ father Mathew took on the role of managing the group Destiny’s Child, and as a result, the family’s source of income diminished greatly and led to the separation of her parents. After the takeoff of Destiny’s Child, Solange, who was 15 at the time, entered the industry and was a backstage dancer for the group.

"I've always had a seat at the table."

Knowles’ first musical endeavor in the public view began in 2001 as the lead singer on the title theme song for The Proud Family. Additionally, In 2002, she ventured into acting when she lent her voice for the character Chanel, the cousin of main character Penny Proud, in The Proud Family. In 2003, Solange Knowles released her debut album Solo Star, securing heavy-hitter producers such as Jermaine Dupri, The Neptunes and Timbaland among others. Knowles co-wrote and co-produced many songs on the album, including its lead single, “Feelin’ You (Part II)”. After the release of her debut album, Knowles took a hiatus from music and leaned more towards acting with roles in  One on One, Johnson Family Vacation, and Bring It On: All or Nothing. Though not recording, Knowles focused on songwriting penning the singles “Upgrade U”  and”Get Me Bodied” from her sister’s sophomore album, B’Day. 

In 2007, Knowles returned to Houston to begin working on her second album entitled Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. While Knowles’ debut was reminiscent of the R&B music at the time, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams deviates and functions as a collection of 1960s and 1970s influenced songs. In 2008, Knowles announced the release of mixtapes to coincide with the album. The first mixtape, I Can’t Get Clearance…, includes the leaked track “Fuck the Industry (Signed Sincerely)” where Knowles expressed her views on the current state of the music industry and its role in morphing Black women to their liking. The mixtape was never released, but Solange released “Fuck the Industry (Signed Sincerely)” as a single in 2010.  In 2013, Knowles announced the launch of her own record label named Saint Records, to place emphasis on up-and-coming R&B and rap artists.

Knowles’ third album A Seat at the Table was released on September 30, 2016, to universal critical acclaim and first number-one album in the United States. In June 2017, Knowles performed at the Glastonbury Festival. In December 2017, Knowles dipped into directing with her involvement with the video for “The Weekend” by SZA. In 2019, Solange performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Parklife festival, and Lovebox Festival. On March 1, 2019, Knowles released her fourth studio album, When I Get Home, and explored the exchange between the viewer and the performer with an accompanying visual album. 

Awards

In 2008, she won an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song for Beyoncé’s song “Get Me Bodied” (2006) which she co-wrote alongside Beyoncé, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, Sean Garrett, Makeba Riddick and Angela Beyincé. In 2017, Knowles won her first Grammy Award, for Best R&B Performance for her song “Cranes in the Sky” from her third album, A Seat at the Table (2016), which was also Knowles’ first Grammy Award nomination. Later in the year, she also won Glamour Award for Woman of the Year, and became the first winner of Billboard Women in Music Impact Award. Knowles has also been a recipient of a BET Award, a Soul Train Music Award, a Webby Award, and more. Most recently, Knowles was awarded with the first Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact for promoting aspects of activism within her creative work. In total, Knowles has 47 nominations and 11 wins across a multitude of award platforms.

"Allow us to be pro-black. Allow us to be beautiful and take pride in that."

Social Involvement

 

Knowles’ lyricism really hones in on blackness and femininity as she explores what it means to be black in America today as they celebrate black culture as well as confront prejudice and cultural appropriation. Knowles has outwardly supported the Black Lives Matter movement since 2015. After the Charleston church shooting that led to 9 dead in a historically Black church, Knowles posed the questions: “Where can we be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be black?” On May 15, 2015, Knowles released “Rise” inspired by police killings in Ferguson and Baltimore and the subsequent protestsIn July 2016, she marched in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in protest of the shooting of Alton Sterling where she criticized police presence during the march. Most recently, Knowles spoke out against the inhumane killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020. 

Though Solange has made great strides in the public view and can safely be referred to in her own right and not just “Beyoncé’s little sister”, I personally still find her to be criminally underrated—particularly when considering the snub from the music industry with When I Get Home. Knowles is spearheading the current neo-soul movement with raw honesty and grace as evident in her brilliant lyricism, musical ear and artistic visuals.

Discography

 

  • Solo Star (2002)
  • Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams (2008)
  • A Seat at the Table (2016)
  • When I Get Home (2019)

Bibliography

Leight, E. (2019, March 14). How (and Why) Solange Channeled Stevie Wonder, Devin the dude AND D’Angelo on her New Album. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/making-of-solange-when-i-get-home-801973/
Mathis, A. (2018, October 15). Solange, the Polymathic Cultural Force. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/t-magazine/solange-interview.html
Maule, A. (2020, October 01). Pop singer Solange Voices National Angst: ‘Where can we be Black?’ Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/solange-knowles-wake-charleston-shooting-where-can-we-be-black-msna621061
McDermott, M. (2016, October 03). Solange Knowles Critiques Police, Joins Alton Sterling protests in Baton Rouge. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from
https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2016/07/11/solange-knowles-criticizes-police-joins-alton-sterling-protests-baton-rouge/86937474/
Mistry, A. (2017, November 08). An Honest Conversation With Solange Knowles. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.thefader.com/2016/09/30/solange-knowles-a-seat-at-the-table-interview
Solange Knowles. (2020, July 23). Retrieved March 03, 2021, from
https://www.biography.com/musician/solange#awesm=~oE4Tpn1dO6DMDk