As a preteen, Solange danced backup for Destiny’s Child. She released her first album, Solo Star, at 16. Nearly 16 years later, evolution is her watchword. Before we leave the Living Room, Solange writes up a short guide of New Orleans in my reporter’s notebook. She impresses on me that I should make sure to sit inside Radcliffe Bailey’s sculpture, “Vessel,” installed in Crescent Park for the Prospect.4 triennial. “It does something to sound,” she says. (The next morning, I sit in the metal cylinder by the Mississippi River and listen to the sound of water pouring from a conch shell.) She exits the Pontchartrain to fetch her son. For the rest of the Mardi Gras season, on Instagram, she leaves evidence of her whereabouts, and maybe her state of mind. She documents a writing retreat at the 17th-century Itopia estate in Jamaica, posing in purple among the brush. At a fete, she grins from under a cowboy hat, embellished with crystals, that she made with her son. On Lundi Gras, she strolls in the street in a billowing white outfit. By Ash Wednesday, these dispatches vanish, and Solange is wherever she is.
What does it feel like when your labor meets the events and the politics of the day? Like when you had to perform on Saturday Night Live days before the 2016 election?
Dave Chappelle was there preparing for his performance [on the next episode], and he was just so wonderful, giving me encouragement. I was clearly petrified. It was such a new range of emotions surrounding that week. It was really heavy having this album and performing a song like “Don’t Touch My Hair” juxtaposed with what was happening in our country. I felt a lot of pressure delivering that message during that time. I certainly didn't time my album to come out then. I have always, all my life’s three projects, released them when they’re done. Even now, I’m thinking about writing songs for my next project, and it feels exactly the time that it’s meant to be. I’m just coming into my 30s, and now I’m really ready to listen and willing to be led.
How has the creative process changed for you over the years? Do you feel pressure to quickly release another album?
This cycle of you put out an album, now you go and perform it, and then you go back and you work on another one for however long, and then as soon as that’s done, you put one out again... it’s the cycle that the music industry has set in place for us. Artists are really whimsical. And I have a 13-year-old son now, so that is a compass of how I have to set up my life and set up my work. It matters to be present with him. I’m relieved when I hear other mothers say, “Yeah, we’re going through this, too.”
Where are you writing now?
I’ve been working in Laurel Canyon, Topanga Canyon and Jamaica. I actually have been following Joni Mitchell. It has been really wild. The house that I was just recording in [in] Jamaica, I stayed there for four days. And then the last day, the owner was like, “You know that mural that’s downstairs in the spare bedroom that the engineer booth is in? Joni Mitchell painted that.”
What is it about the category of pop artist that appealed to you in the past?
Through the  True EP, I actually wrote down the dissertation of me wanting to create a pop record that was still nuanced and still had intricacies and still explored space and time and identity. That was during a time, especially in indie music, where pop music was sort of this icky forbidden term that you didn't want to be associated with. But I always [associated] pop music with popularity, and, you know, D’Angelo sold mad records. Lauryn Hill sold millions and millions of records. Beyoncé sold records. Those were my pop stars growing up, and I didn't internalize pop, and still don’t internalize pop, as this dismissive and reductive term. I want to be able to just look at the trajectory of my work at this present time and say, “Hey, I had a singular vision. This is the way that I saw the world and wanted to see the world, and I feel proud of that.”
Which musicians excite you now?
Tierra Whack. She sent me a shirt that says, “Tierra Whack is my mom,” and I wear it proudly. I love Cardi B. I can’t wait to hear what her album sounds like. Moses [Sumney] and Kelela put out incredible projects last year. Azealia Banks is putting out new music. I think she’s phenomenal. I saw Missy [Elliott] and Busta [Rhymes] and Kelly [Rowland] are putting out a record [“Get It”] today, which I’m going home to listen to. Missy is... well, she’s my mom.