Black women have often fought to be heard, seen and valued within the music industry. And now, by public opinion, their value is somehow equated to how many albums they can produce. Major artists like Rihanna, SZA, Victoria Monét and Normani are just a few that have undergone criticism over the years.
Too often, Black women artists have undergone scrutiny after taking ‘too long’ of a hiatus. But let’s be real – isn’t it time to give the girls some grace? Especially because as Black women, we’re never not working.
In some cases, labels push out their music without consent, leaving out their vision. For example, Saweetie’s single featuring Doja Cat, “Best Friend,” was released in 2020 prematurely by her label, Warner Records. The song was released incompletely and without the adjacent social media rollout.
I am extremely disappointed in my label WBR for prematurely releasing a single I was so excited about. I feel disrespected. I’m hands-on with ALL of my creative & had such a dope rollout for “best friends”. The thirst for clout & $ is real & it overrides the artists’ art.
— 💎 (@Saweetie) December 4, 2020
Saweetie’s 2020 tweet read: “I am extremely disappointed in my label … for prematurely releasing a single I was so excited about. I feel disrespected. I’m hands-on with ALL of my creative and had such a dope rollout for ‘Best Friends’. The thirst for clout and $ is real and it overrides the artists’ art.”
This is just one example that equates the value of a Black female artist to the money she could earn. But should that be the standard, should it be – quantity over quality? The music industry was never meant to be centered on Black women, which inherently puts us at a disadvantage. That said, there’s almost always a different discourse when Black female artists publicly shy away from their craft.
There’s a slippery slope. When we as fans, spectators, and critics don’t allow artists time and space to develop their craft; we’re on the verge of losing true musicianship. Truthfully, it’s not like any of us are going anywhere. In fact, as soon as those tickets drop or the album is released we’re the first ones to listen. So why are you pressing her?
According to Musician Wave, crafting and putting out an album can take anywhere from a month to a few years to fully complete, which is also dependent on the label. Especially with life, business, and other things getting in the way. We can all relate to the intersectional identity of being both Black and a woman and the barriers that come with it. In the same way, we embody the mentality of having to be twice as good in our own lives, careers, etc., we cannot possibly understand what it’s like to have that amplified by public scrutiny and the demands of the music industry.
For example, Rihanna hasn’t released new music in the last seven years, however, the queen hasn’t rested since. She’s created a billion-dollar beauty and lingerie empire, acted in multiple films from Oceans 8 to Guava’s Island, and creatively directed two SavagexFenty fashion shows on Amazon Prime, and that’s just to name a few. Now a mother, with another one on the way, it seems she’s done nothing but move. But still, fans plead for new music. Rihanna has been and will continue to be forever criticized on social media, with the question, “Where’s the album?”
She did give in with her latest single, Lift Me Up, for the latest Black Panther soundtrack. And later performed at the Superbowl. I think her journey is clear: One thing a Black woman knows how to do is make it, even with the time in between.
I mean, let’s look at Lauryn Hill. she hasn’t produced an album since the early 2000s, but yet, people will still be lined up to see her when she does perform. Her album, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, sold more than 10 million albums and won five Grammys.
Kathy Iandoli, author of “God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop said, “I think we forget Lauryn Hill was only 23 years old, and she was … pregnant with [second child] Selah, when the album was released, it’s not the easiest space to be in. And [after] she swept the Grammys, there’s just tremendous pressure now to deliver again.”
Fans should feel validated in wanting music from their favorite artists, but c’mon, sis gotta live too. We often forget as spectators that these are people, who have lives, families, and their own aspirations outside of music. I mean Rihanna used her stardom to create her nonprofit, The Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), which invests in climate justice initiatives in the Caribbean & United States.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more music from Black women, but we’ve also seen repeatedly that more time produces better results. SZA and Victoria Monét are the truest examples.
SZA took five years after her debut album ‘CTRL’, to release the projected album of the year, ‘SOS’. The 23-song album single-handedly defends the argument, GIVE THE GIRLS THEIR TIME. The manifesto has powerful examples of production, wordplay, and stories untold that have sold out arenas worldwide.
The album also gave us glimpses of the past, with accents of the boyish-rock bands that millennials grew up with, so the space allowed her to give us a little bit of the past, with sounds of the future. Without her music hibernation, we never would’ve gotten what some call, “a masterpiece of healing.”
Victoria Monét, singer-songwriter, has impeccable wordplay and stage performance. Almost three years after her debut album, JAGUAR, her fans continuously pressured the triple threat for a new album. She never caved, instead, released several singles throughout the year. Coastin’, F.U.C.K, and newest single featuring Lucky Daye, Smoke kept her fans in check and captivated, including a viral Tik Tok dance, the #SomeCutChallenge, which has gotten over 600,000 views on the platform.
And in Monét’s latest triumphs, she recently sold out her first headlining show in under a minute in Los Angeles. In that three-year hiatus, she still managed to be asked to perform at some of the most popular festivals including Made In America, Sol Blume, Day N’ Vegas, and more. But what’s most important is that she released music in her own time and her own way, regardless of what her fans wanted, and what’s more, they’re waiting patiently for more.
You’ll never go wrong with allowing a Black woman to breathe. And most importantly, allow them to dive into what makes them truly happy, without having someone smashing their opinions down their throat. With capitalism and social media, music has slowly gotten away from its true essence, and artists take that back by showing up in their music, so why would we as fans want to rush that process?
Madison Hunt is a DC based writer. Her interests include exploring new culture trends and spotlighting Black artists coming up in the music industry.