On Our Throne Sitting High: Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Reminds the World of the Beauty in Blackness
Stefan Harden, New Media Director
The Queen is back and she has done it again, but this time African Culture takes the center stage. Singer, songwriter, humanitarian, and to be quite honest, the greatest living entertainer, Beyoncé released her 4th visual album entitled Black Is King. In a detailed Instagram caption, the cinematic work was pinned by the artist as her “passion project.” After over a year in production, Beyoncé stated that she was happy that it “would now serve a greater purpose.” The film, which originally served as a companion piece to her album The Lion King: The Gift, reimagines the beloved narrative of The Lion King, with a modern twist in hopes of guiding today’s kings and queens back to their crowns.
In an announcement on Good Morning America the morning before the film’s debut, Beyoncé stated that she hopes it “shifts the global perception of the word Black.”
“Black is King means Black is regal and rich in history, in purpose, and in lineage,” said Beyoncé.
Well, the film does just that and even more. With locations including Ghana, Johannesburg, Belgium, London, and even Beyoncé’s backyard, the film showcases the beauty and excellence that is being Black, worldwide. Starring the likes of Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Rowland, and her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé also collaborated with countless African creatives, further allowing the project to remain true to the tradition, legacy, and history that is “her” story. (“Her” referring to Africa.) Not only does she collaborate with these African artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives, but she allows them to take the forefront in many cases. Beyoncé and her team created an equal playing field for all parties involved. Artists like Burna Boy and Shatta Wale shared the screen with the Queen herself, and even have their own moments to shine solo.
Shatta Wale and Beyoncé via Instagram (@shattawalenima)
Like many of the other artists, actors, producers, and designers featured in the film, they are not as known on an international scale. However, because of Black Is King they have now been able to share their art and craft with the rest of the world. Throughout the film, you can also see Beyoncé pay homage to popular culture. The visual for Mood 4 Eva, one of my personal favorites, pulls some inspiration from the classic Black film Coming to America and even a slight reference to Jordan Peele’s Get Out. The lends to the idea that the film serves as a wake-up call, reminding us who we truly are.
Beyoncé & Jay-Z still shot from ‘Mood 4 Eva’
As a creative, aspiring filmmaker, and most importantly a Black man, this film’s impact is almost indescribable. While I am a big fan of Beyoncé and her work, this film is much deeper than that. It is phenomenal in an artistic sense, but also nostalgic and very necessary. In watching the film, I was able to tap into my childhood memories from The Lion King while also understanding the larger purpose that this film serves in the day we live. It reminds me of the lineage we, as Black people, are a part of. As a people, we have been brainwashed to believe that we are worthless, consistently targeted, profiled, and killed. Our rich lineage is something we often forget. The reminder that it provides us in this time of injustice is all a part of that “bigger purpose” that Beyoncé said it would serve. It reminds us of the power we have and who we are. Not only were we once Kings and Queens, but we still are. Black Is King lets us know that regardless of what “they” may tell us, Black people are valuable. It tells the world that Black is, always has been, and always will be beautiful.
“We were beauty before they even knew what beauty was.” – Beyoncé
The film is available now, streaming exclusively on Disney+. The Lion King: The Gift (Deluxe) is also available on all music streaming platforms.