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In 2017, Solange staged an intimate and somewhat unprecedented performance at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum. Mixing theater and movement with live reinterpretations of songs from her Grammy-winning album A Seat at the Table, the event featured 30-odd performers, including a horn section and dancers, tracing the building’s iconic spiraled balconies. No phones. All-white dress code. It was ambitious, to say the least. But the event also crystallized something her fans already knew: More than just a musician, Solange—like Kanye West or her sister, Beyoncé—represents an expansion of the roles black artists can play and the spaces they can inhabit, a tearing down of boundaries that might have, until fairly recently, kept performers like her out.
Born in 1986 and raised in Houston, Solange started her career in her mid-teens, performing occasionally with her sister’s group, Destiny’s Child (which her father, Mathew Knowles, managed), before making her solo debut with 2002’s Solo Star. After a string of auxiliary projects (including writing work on Beyoncé’s 2006 LP B’Day), she returned with 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, an album that braided Motown-style songwriting with electronic production, bridging retro and contemporary, mainstream and alternative, R&B and indie-rock sensibilities.
But it was 2016’s A Seat at the Table that put her into rare air. Expansive, subtle, mellow but defiant, the album became something of an instant classic, a bellwether (alongside work by artists such as Frank Ocean) of R&B as art music, sketching the plight of modern black women in ways that felt both universal and strikingly personal. Her 2019 LP When I Get Home was equally personal, and played like a richly layered love letter to her Houston upbringing. It was accompanied by an experimental (but ambitious) short film, co-directed by visionary filmmaker Terence Nance, that nodded to motifs from her Guggenheim performance.