Why People Are Already Pissed at Beyoncé’s Upcoming Visual Album ‘Black Is King’

We’re still weeks away from the unveiling of Beyoncé‘s new visual album, Black Is King, but it’s already facing criticism. After seeing the trailers that were released over the weekend of June 26, viewers took to social media with complaints about the visuals. Many said they feel the Lemonade singer is appropriating, homogenizing, and capitalizing off of African culture.

Beyoncé giving a speech
Beyoncé giving a speech in June 2020 | BET/Getty Images North America

What is ‘Black Is King’?

Black Is King is an art piece that was written, directed, and executive produced by Beyoncé. It will feature music from The Gift, the soundtrack album for the 2019 remake of The Lion King in which Beyoncé played Nala, and stars several artists who worked on the album.

Explaining the project in a statement shared with Variety, Disney and Beyoncé’s company Parkwood Entertainment said: “Black Is King is a celebratory memoir for the world on the Black experience. The film is a story for the ages that informs and rebuilds the present. A reunion of cultures and shared generational beliefs. A story of how the people left most broken have an extraordinary gift and a purposeful future.”

Beyoncé offered up a few more details in a June 28 Instagram post, explaining, “It is my passion project that I have been filming, researching and editing day and night for the past year. I’ve given it my all and now it’s yours. It was originally filmed as a companion piece to ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ soundtrack and meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry.”

The film will hit Disney+ on July 31 — just over a year after the release of The Lion King.

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What people are saying about ‘Black Is King’

Many people are excited to see Black Is King. It’s one of few musical releases from the singer in recent years and her first visual album since 2016’s Lemonade, a critically-acclaimed project that provoked global conversations about race, Black womanhood and feminism, spirituality, and more. But others aren’t super thrilled about it.

Many people accused Beyoncé of misrepresenting Africa and fueling a certain narrative even though it is a diverse and massive continent.

“Sorry but this is a freaking stereotype,” one person wrote under Beyoncé’s aforementioned Instagram post. “Do you think Africans are only people who [dance] around a fire ? You fight against Afro-American rights and you stain Africans. It’s not because you are black that you have the right to insult other black people. I know in America black people insult each other but not in Africa. We don’t.”

“The Wakandafication of the continent and Black diasporic identities is entirely uninspired,” commented another, referencing Black Panther, a 2018 Marvel film that takes place on the fictional African country Wakanda. “The repeated tropes/symbolic gestures that homogenise & essentialise thousands of African cultures in service of securing the terrain for Black capitalist possibilities & futures is tired.”

Echoing that, someone else said, “Y’all KNOW I love me some Beyoncé but this whole homogenization of African culture is just weird and makes it seem like Africa was ‘perfect’ pre-colonization, it wasn’t”

Others accused the singer of appropriation, with one person saying, “YOU MEAN TO TELL ME that her new movie piggybacks off of African Culture and it won’t even be available in Africa. We need to talk about African Americans capitalizing off our culture with no real engagement or understanding with/of our people.”

(Disney+ is not available in certain African countries, but the outlet reportedly has plans to expand its coverage over time.)

Others, however, defended Beyoncé

In response to the backlash, many fans suggested that Beyoncé didn’t mean any harm by the visual album. One person wrote: “People always complain about representation in the mainstream. We complain about how Americans know nothing about Africa. Sooo BEYONCÈ integrates African culture in her music videos to bring awareness and y’all complain??? Come on now.”

“You Twitter people are crazy talking about Beyoncé ‘using’ african culture for her benefit or whatever in Black is King,” said another. “She’s literally creating exposure to so many local african artists. There are even songs on the album she doesn’t sing in.”

So far, Beyoncé has not responded to the backlash. But maybe fans will get more clarity and understanding in Black Is King. Remember, you can watch it starting on July 31.

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