On Friday, Beyoncé (Knowles-Carter) treated us to a new album, "Lion King: The Gift," and what a gift it is. The album executive produced and curated by Knowles-Carter is an accompanying soundtrack to the latest "Lion King" movie that hit cinema globally on the same day.
The album not only featured short sound clips of the characters in the new version of Disney's 1994 classic but stayed true to the African theme and setting of the film, featuring notable African artists like Wiz Kid who featured on “Brown Skin Girl."
The single, which also features vocals from Knowles-Carter’s first daughter, Blue-Ivy, is a love letter to all brown skin girls comparing our skin to pearls and diamonds and references actress Lupita Nyong’o, “pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in.”
This isn’t the first time African artists have collaborated with American artists, with Nigerian artist, Wiz Kid and Canadian-American artist, Drake’s summer 2016 hit “One Dance” and Ghanaian artist Fuse ODG and English artist Ed Sheeran’s collaboration on “Boa Me” in 2017.
Ghanaian producer, Guilty Beatz worked on three songs on “The Gift:” “All Ready” by Ghanaian artist Shatta Wale and Beyoncé; “Keys to The Kingdom” by Nigerian artists Tiwa Savage and Mr. Eazi; and “Find Your Way Back (Circle of Life)” by Beyoncé. Beatz tells Rolling Stone that this album is a push for a crossover of musical sounds. Though there have been a few collaborations in the past; quoting “One Dance,” Beatz believes this is the album to change it all.
“Now that Beyoncé (Knowles-Carter) released a whole album, this will open the gateway,” he says.
It is evident with the number of notable African artists in the credits (tracklist below), it was all very deliberate. Knowles-Carter wanted fans to see and hear the connection between the album and the movie.
“I feel like the soundtrack becomes visual in your mind,” she tells ABC. “It’s a soundscape is more than just the music because each song tells the story of the film.”
And more than that, this album was a “love letter” to the continent.
“This soundtrack is a love letter to Africa. I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa; and not just use some of the sounds, and made my interpretation of it,” Knowles-Carter says.
The African “sound” and influence can be heard throughout the album, from the drums and music to the various African dialects spoken and sang.
“I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa,” she said. “A lot of drums, the chants, all these incredible new sounds mixed with some of the producers from America, we’ve kind of created our own genre.”
Other artists featured on the album include South African artists Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly, who sang in Zulu on “My Power.” Cameroonian artist, Salatiel, featured on “Water” with Pharrell Williams; and Nigerian artists Burna Boy who gave a shoutout to Yorubas with his song “Ja Ara E,” which loosely translates to “wise up.” Yemi Alade featured on two songs on the album, “My Power” and “Don’t Jealous Me” with Nigerian artist Tekno, Mr. Eazi and Ghanaian Lord Afrixana ; who sang in his native tongue, Twi. Alade sang some Igbo and Eazi used his usual Pidgin English to add his touch to the song.
Knowles-Carter herself sings in Swahili on “Otherside” saying “Mabubu Katika Mawingu” in the outro, which loosely translates to “ancestors in the clouds.”
Just days before dropping “The Gift”, Knowles-Carter released the music video for “Spirit” which appears on this album and the official movie soundtrack. Watch below.
In honour of the release of the latest version of this classic, we are giving away two tickets to see “Lion King” in cinemas, conditions are posted on Instagram @qweensmagazine.