You can listen to When I Get Home wherever the mood takes you, but nothing compares to blasting the album in a car while driving around the streets of Houston where the body of this material manifested from. Traveling to Texas for Solange‘s album experience felt like embarking on a pilgrimage – my flight was literally on CP time with an unexpected detour to Ohio that set me back about three hours, but when I finally touched down at George Bush Intercontinental Airport I was overcome with relief. As an outsider from the east coast, I didn’t really know what to expect from Houston. This was the furthest I had ever set foot down south, and I only knew two natives that still lived in the city.
While my friend drove us to the Menil Collection so I could see the infamous Rothko Chapel, she pointed out other relevant spots featured in the accompanying film. The album experience events took place in nine locations within Third Ward: Emancipation Gym, Project Row Houses, Ensemble Theatre, SHAPE Community Center, Unity National Bank, St. John’s Church, Texan Tire & Wheel, Vita Mutari Salon, and the Houston Museum of African-American Culture. Not only did each institution hold historical significance to the black community, but they also played a major role in Solange’s upbringing.
The day before, I watched When I Get Home in my apartment with another friend after we had spent the afternoon at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the same space that I previously witnessed Solange perform “An Ode To” back in 2017. (I will never ever forget the image of her twerking on the floor.) Attending a screening in Houston to watch the film on a huge screen at SHAPE amongst Solange’s family and friends completely erased that viewing experience from memory. While everyone waited in the emerald green-lit room for When I Get Home to begin, DJ Candlest chopped and screwed the album live that gave it a new meaning for this atmosphere.
Sitting in a crowd with artists like Bun B, Metro Boomin, A$AP Ferg, Cassie, Terence Nance, Abra, and Aziah “Zola” Wells was certainly special, but it was the presence of Tina Knowles-Lawson that starstruck me the most. I imagined how incredibly proud she must have felt as a mother to watch this visual that serves as a tribute to the state where she raised her daughters in their hometown within a place that she frequently took them throughout their childhood.
During the Q&A with Antwaun Sargent that was livestreamed afterward, Solange broke down the “insular process” that went into making the many pieces of When I Get Home. Following her diagnosis with autonomic disorder, she returned home to reconnect with her body and spirit, and found it to be a “freeing experience.” She rented a house on Wichita Street to reflect on the journey of her spiritual evolution and the music started to write itself. Solange describes Texas as a “spirited place” where different experiences are grounded in the culture, and it’s something I immediately felt as I explored the terrain for the first time that day.
At this phase in her life, Solange has turned to the power of repetition. She elaborated on how mantras have given her a lot of reinforcement in regards to her beliefs, but specifically in her body. And so she began reinforcing frequencies through music and movement as well. “It’s one thing to imagine it and one thing to manifest it,” she added.
With the When I Get Home film, Solange wanted to be a small part in telling a story about the black cowboys that she was exposed to growing up. She saw a version of herself within the image of these men that are willing to test their body’s limitations “for the sake of entertainment” every day at the rodeo. She unapologetically threw shade at John Wayne and touched on how starring in Calvin Klein’s Americana-themed campaign made her realize that she needed to reclaim western iconography. It reminded me that so many aspects of “the yeehaw agenda” that are trending are part of a costume whereas the people that identify with this culture are sporting a uniform of sorts.
Solange has never steered away from talking about her relationship with God and the importance of faith, but it wasn’t until she began telling a story about her fear of the Holy Ghost that the symbolism became clear. Even if you have never been exposed to someone being possessed by the holy spirit, the terrifying concept of not having control and being forced to surrender to something unknown is relatable. It can’t always be described in words, you have to be open to the experience and that’s essentially what Solange tried to convey with this project.
“If you can see it, that is where the fear dissolves,” she said. “When you have a clear roadmap to get there, that’s when things get less scary.”
Solange emphasized how she made When I Get Home for herself, whereas A Seat at the Table was about healing, working on herself, and working through things. She turned to music that enriched her during this time as inspiration, citing Stevie Wonder, Sun Ra, Joni Mitchell, and Missy Elliott. She gave her collaborators the elements to interpret her ideas and enjoyed watching them expand on those thoughts because she was aware of her limitations. Improvisation also became a strong foundation of the work.
“With ‘A Seat at the Table,’ I had so much to say,” she said. “With this album, I had so much to feel and words would have been reductive.”
Like many of the legends that came before her, Solange is fixated on the greater impact of art and the possibility of being a reference point. She is driven by the idea of building worlds and creating new landscapes for the future and making an imprint through her work. Solange firmly believes that this project is the truest reflection of who she is; it’s a snapshot of herself as she’s caught somewhere between the past and the future. It’s obvious that Solange is proud of her roots, but she’s also excited about the renaissance of Black Texans creating experimental work and shifting the nature of how we are experiencing things.
Rather than attend the invite-only reception and throw down on a proper Texan BBQ feast with the legendary Ikem Onyekwena on scene snapping photos, Solange hit the strip club with her friends and danced to Megan Thee Stallion‘s “Big Ole Freak.” She likely posted about it on her Finsta, a sacred place that she likes to dump all the noise in her head. Like Solange said, she’ll always be from Third Ward.