Leading a creative revolution whose ripples were seen from Kanye to Donald Glover to Little Simz, Beyonc consigned the idea of performers sticking to the music to history
By now, its a cliche. You have as many hours in a day as Beyonc, the saying goes. You can find its words slapped on mugs, T-shirts and Instagram quotes or murmured into the bathroom mirror as a bleary-eyed morning affirmation. The backlash (largelyledbywhitewomen) to this tongue-in-cheek attempt at self-motivation has already pointed out its blind spots around class. Of course, you, regular human with looming mounds of debt and bills, cant maximise your time like a pop star with entire creative and personal teams to eliminate her drudgery. Thats obvious.
But the sentiment that Beyonc would, at one point, have been a nobody just like you, with as much time to work with still holds true. Like her or not, she leveraged a childhood work ethic into a career that spreads beyond her role as a performer. Yes, Beyonc is a singer. Yes, she often co-writes. In addition, she is also an all-round entertainment mogul, directing documentaries and music visuals, executive-producing film soundtracks and commanding a wider, ephemeral level of cultural influence not to mention moving into fashion.
She isnt alone. Over the past decade, black labour in music has produced a new understanding of musicians as curators a word that neatly describes the ways black artistry has evolved with the times. As music has become more visual and omnipresent, weaving itself into ads, apps and other art forms, the most impactful acts of the 2010s have found ways to integrate those outlets into their own output: theyve become industries unto themselves. Music may be their anchor, but for everyone from Rihanna to Janelle Mone to Kanye West, its just one part of their contribution to culture. Working within the framework of an exploitative industry, these black musicians have created a space that allows for at least a semblance of autonomy.