Solange Knowles doesn’t mince words. “There are a lot of songs about sex,” she says of her new album, a personal project she funded and managed herself. “It’s the kind of record you put on when your man is coming over, when you’re with your girls. There are songs that make you wanna dance because we were kind of partying our way through the record, but it’s very chill.” Knowles worked with a few new friends on the album, forgoing the major label route to make a statement that is entirely her own. Along the way, she found a fated collaborator in Blood Orange’s Devonte “Dev” Hynes. “Dev was a complete surprise, his role changed substantially throughout the process,” she says of the rising star, who wound up producing most of the record. “It’s very rare that you work with someone with whom you have this creative chemistry, it’s almost like a relationship. You have a sort of musical love affair.”
Working with Hynes, Vincent Vendetta of the Midnight Juggernauts, Ariel Reichstadt, and polishing things up with Pharrell, Knowles aims for a pop-soul sound that’s equal parts progressive and throwback. “My references for the record were all Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, not just their typical Janet and Prince stuff, but SOS Band and their b-sides with Chaka Khan. At first the songs were really dark because I had a premonition before the record that I was going to die. I was having panic attacks and wiling out.” Once the team realized a house they had rented in Santa Barbara to record in had a bad vibe—to put it bluntly—they relocated to L.A. and saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I have never been invested in believing anything about hauntings,” Knowles says nervously, “so of course I was thinking it was something within myself because I am in complete denial of ghosts. But I think it was haunted!”
Despite the album’s intimate overtones, the blissfully in-love mother manages to address the downside of domesticity. “Now being in a stable situation, sometimes that feels fucked up within itself,” Solange says. “I’ve been on the road my entire life since I was 13, even when I had my son he came on the road with me. Now that he’s in school where there is a real structure, we have to be home during those times. Being that grounded feels really foreign to me.” Writing, recording, and putting the record out herself has helped her maintain a lot of independence. “I don’t need anyone telling me ‘this isn’t cool enough’ or anyone from the opposite end saying ‘this seems kind of weird.’ I’m lucky enough to have been in this business for so long that I know how it works. It’s not that hard. It’s not rocket science.”