Published Mar 05, 2019When Solange released the critically acclaimed A Seat At The Table in 2016, she didn't ask for permission to take a seat, but she was critical of who she let sit down. What awaited her after that album was a trip back to Houston's Third Ward, where she created an ode to her hometown, resulting in something less calculated, and more insular — it resulted in When I Get Home.
Driven by feelings, mindfulness and a newfound sense of purpose, the avant-garde album takes on an intensified jazz approach filled with sonic repetition, chord progression and freeform collaboration. And despite being light in lyrics, it's heavy in Houston traditions.
From street names ("Exit Scott," "Binz," "Beltway") to cultural aesthetics (i.e., slabs, diamond grills), Houston culture is elevated to a familiar place, even if it isn't familiar to the outside world on first glance. While appearances from the likes of Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and Playboi Carti add generational colour to the album, it's the spirit of the late DJ Screw, a legendary Houston music pioneer who birthed the chopped-and-screwed sub-genre, that carries the album from start to finish.
"Things I Imagined," "Not Screwed!" and "Almeda" all revel in the broken-down style, only to be pieced back together with the subtle spirituality woven throughout the album. Further pushing DJ Screw's legacy forward is the appearance of the Chopstars on "Down With the Clique" and the slow-rolled, high-hat-driven Gucci Mane feature on "My Skin My Logo." By contrast, Solange floats over "Dreams," "Jerrod" and "I'm a Witness," bringing forth new dimensions of gospel music.
When I Get Home isn't crafted for the general listener — it's specifically for black American Southerners, particularly from Houston. It's a reclamation of a history that often doesn't tells stories about black cowboys or black musical innovations. However, it is a recollection of what inspires Solange, and more importantly, how she wants to inspire the next generation from Houston. (Columbia)