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Five influences, legends and collaborators on Beyoncé’s Renaissance

From Honey Dijon to Teena Marie, here’s our picks from the Queen’s new album you need to know.

29 Jul

Mason Poole

The day we’ve all been waiting for is upon us – Renaissance day. Beyoncé’s hotly anticipated seventh studio album, the first of a three part project recorded over three years, is now available for all to buy and stream (unless you already managed to get hold of the leak). Stating on her Instagram that her intention when making the album was to “create a safe place, a place without judgement. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom,” it’s no surprise that the tracks are more leftfield and experimental than her existing catalogue.

Sampling mainstream hits such as Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ alongside less well known tracks such as Kilo Ali’s ‘Cocaine (America Has A Problem)’, Queen Bey has tried to give credit where it is due, covering a spectrum of dance music that goes beyond house. Tems, Drake, Green Velvet, Grace Jones and AG Cook are just a small selection of those who have contributed to the album in some way. Even ‘I’m Too Sexy’ London-based duo Right Said Fred are involved.

It hasn’t all been positive however, with Kelis, who is sampled on ‘Energy’, suggesting via Instagram video that more could have been done to inform her that her song was being interpolated before it became public knowledge. It remains to be seen how all of those featured on Renaissance will respond upon its release. With so many noteworthy minds influencing or being directly involved with the album, gal-dem has narrowed it down to five that are of particular cultural significance. 

Honey Dijon – ‘Love Is A State of Mind’

Born and raised in Chicago, Honey Dijon (credited as Honey Redmond) has been a house music trailblazer for a number of years, headlining festivals and spearheading the genre’s convergence with the fashion world. Producing ‘Cozy’ and ‘Alien Superstar’, her infectious energy is apparent throughout both, with clear allusions to the New York City underground club scene that Honey cut her teeth in. She has long been vocal about the queer POC origins of house music and how in recent times, the history of the genre has been whitewashed. With Beyoncé’s vision for the album being one of “freedom” and “exploration”, having a Black trans house producer be directly involved in the project is a clear attempt to redirect the public consciousness to the roots of the sound.

The Clark Sisters – ‘Center of Thy Will’

The Clark Sisters are known as ‘The First Ladies of Gospel’ and as the top-selling female gospel group in history, it’s no surprise that they were sampled on ‘Church Girl’. Though the track itself is more bounce than blessèd, the ‘Clark Sound’, characterised by each sister possessing a signature vocal quality, pushes through, with Dorinda Clark-Cole’s soprano trills opening it and remaining prominent throughout. Ushering in the crossover gospel sound that saw the likes of Mary Mary and Kirk Franklin enter the Billboard Hot 100, contemporary R&B artists have also cited the sisters as direct influences, with Yebba stating that they have been a lifelong inspiration and Mary J Blige, who executive produced their biopic, revealing that they “helped [her] heal”.

Kevin Aviance –  ‘Cunty’

Sampled alongside fellow New York City icon Moi Renee on ‘Pure/Honey’, Kevin Aviance’s feature (credited as Eric Snead) is another example of Beyoncé giving ballroom culture and particularly Black femmes, their flowers. A member of the House of Aviance and a successful dance artist in his own right, Kevin is no stranger to working with music royalty, having collaborations with Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson under his belt. While the aesthetic and vernacular of Harlem’s balls have already been introduced to mainstream audiences via television and film including Paris Is Burning, POSE  and RuPaul’s Drag Race, the inclusion of the term “cunty” (meaning fierce or sexy), which some might initially interpret as a pejorative, is striking coming from Beyoncé, an artist with such a wide demographic appeal that extends far beyond this scene which has its roots in resistance.

Teena Marie –  ‘Ooh La La La’

With this track most well known for being sampled by The Fugees in their 1996 hit ‘Fu-Gee-La’, both ‘Cuff It’ and ‘Energy’ play with this memorable hook. Teena Marie (credited as Mary Brockert) stands alongside fellow soul artists such as Bobby Caldwell and Lisa Stansfield as an esteemed member of the “today someone on Black Twitter found out that this artist isn’t actually Black” club. A frequent collaborator with Rick James, her signature R&B, soul and funk sound has paved the way for a new generation of stars. A member of the hive herself, the samples on Renaissance serve as a fitting tribute by Beyoncé to the late singer. 

Princess Loko –  ‘Street Shit’

A Memphis rap legend, Princess Loko’s voice (credited as Andrea Summers) is the very first one you will hear on Renaissance, even before Beyoncé’s. Opening ‘I’m That Girl’ with the line “please, motherfuckers ain’t stopping me”, she sets the tone for the entire album. A sound that is noticeably more grassroots than her East Coast and West Coast contemporaries, it’s a further example of Beyoncé paying homage to underground scenes throughout the project. Releasing her debut album Long Ovadue in 2012, Princess Loko passed away from congestive heart failure in 2020 – but her legacy lives on in the raw and unflinching female rap we hear today.

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