Beyoncé’s last album is an ode to: Black queerness, to ballroom culture and dance, to thickness and self-love. More than anything, it was an ode to joy, for the people needing it most. From the house influences, to the sampling of old gospel songs, the project was an amalgamation of a Black queer person’s childhood and present, from the roller rink, to the sanctuary, to the ballroom.
The album came out exactly a month ago today, and it has received rave reviews from critics, as well as a long-lasting collective meltdown on all social media platforms as everyone lauds her ability to platform and incorporate queer voices as a straight woman. Among the internet chatter is praise for her ability to create an album that serves as further proof that Black women and the Black queer community sit at the epicenter of culture, particularly the culture around dance music.
This album is for us, by us, and it’s very clear; at the intersection of bounce and house music and gospel sits a group of Black young people who relate to and find joy in these spaces, and are often ignored by the general public while being profited off of. Beyoncé approached Renaissance as a celebration of these spaces; a queer cookout where we’re all invited to the table.
The past two years have been exhausting for us all, and the summer where we collectively committed to being “outside” deserved a soundtrack. Black women delivered in spades, and not just Beyoncé. Flo Milli’s most recent album “You still here, Ho?” was a y2k-infused dance rap album, opening with Tiffany “New York” Pollard (a reality show icon and cultural figure) claiming her status as the “Original HBIC”, setting the stage for an album dedicated to maintaining that energy.
At 22 years old, Flo Milli is the definition of Gen Z Black girl magic. This is seen explicitly in her music, such as the aptly titled “Pretty Girls”, and “PBC” (short for Pretty, Black, Cute). She is unabashed, confident, and loud. Where women are taught to shy away from compliments, Flo Milli raps about being “Conceited”. She makes music for the purpose of instilling confidence in her listeners, and goes viral on TikTok for doing it (“Conceited” has over 820 thousand videos under one sound alone). She loves herself, and isn’t afraid to say it. She takes up space, and makes music encouraging other Black young women that do the same.
Flo Milli’s last album is for the ones who have been told they’re “pretty for a Black girl”, but know they’re beautiful by any standard. For girls who slick their edges down and wore big gold hoops well before it was a trend to do so. For the Black women who pioneered culture and aesthetics as we see them today, without seeing a shred of credit outside of the spaces they occupy. In an interview she did to promote her first album, she said that she made music for women to feel confident and hot. That same ethos is present throughout this new album, in an era where musicians (especially young Black women and femme artists), are often expected to have a socially conscious slant in their music.
What do Beyoncé and Flo Milli’s albums have in common? They are meant to uplift those who push forward culture, and are doing so through joy. Black women and queer people are constantly pushing forward culture, introducing language, style, and dance that everyone seeks to replicate. We write the songs that blow up on TikTok with dances we choreograph, done in outfits Black women were popularizing in the 90s, with barely any credit (let alone celebration) of these contributions.
The subversion of that cultural erasure, and dedication to praising and uplifting young Black women are where both Flo Milli and Beyoncé thrive, as well as all of the other Black artists emerging in the music space. This is what makes their music so effective, and why Gen Z continues to give all their love and support. We want music for twerking in the car, and showing off our new hairstyles. We want music for walking down the street and holding our heads high instead of turning our eyes to the ground. We deserve backing tracks for unmitigated Black joy, and this is what this summer of music has given us.
Black women and femmes are constantly laboring. We are at the backbone of social movements, working twice as hard in the workplace for a fraction of the wages of our peers, and the places we seek to carve out self-care and joy (through our hair, fashion, and creative expression) are often taken for granted, or distorted into something digestible for those outside of our demographic. These two albums honored those places.