These Are Some of the Black Queer Artists Who Helped Shape Renaissance

Though we live in near-apocalyptic times, in case you hadn’t heard, Beyoncé is here to save us all. In the face of monkeypox, the increased criminalization of trans existence, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, and record high temperatures, the music superstar dropped her long-awaited seventh studio album Renaissance last Friday. It is the perfect hour-long hedonistic escape, its velvet-smooth transitions evoking the sensation of dancing until songs and bodies blend together into a seamless, glittering whole.

It is also Bey’s love letter to Black queer and trans people and cultures, who have long held up the Beyhive on their shoulders, and to whom Renaissance’s musical stylings are indebted. She said as much in a heartfelt letter that she posted on her website the night before the album was released, thanking her gay “godmother,” her Uncle Jonny, who introduced her to “a lot of the music and the culture that serve as an inspiration for this album.”

Beyoncé additionally thanked “all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long.” It’s safe to say that with the help of her extensive roster of LGBTQ+ collaborators, Renaissance pays homage to the rich musical lineages of Black LGBTQ+ artists, past and present. Because Renaissance pulls from decades of those lineages, over 101 writers and 32 producers are credited on the album’s Genius page, so there would be no way to possibly highlight every queer person directly involved in the album’s making. From contemporary icons of indie R&B to bounce, here are just a few of the queer and trans artists featured on Renaissance.

Big Freedia

This marks the second time that the New Orleans bounce legend has contributed vocals to a lead Beyoncé single. She can be heard on “Break My Soul,” instructing listeners to “release ya anger, release ya mind, release ya job, release the time,” which is a sample from the artist’s 2014 song “Explode.” Freedia previously could be heard with a similarly legendary bar on “Formation,” when she said, “I did not come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch!”


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