Beyoncé's seventh album, RENAISSANCE, dropped a week ago today. It marked six years since Queen B’s last solo album, Lemonade. And it was confirmed last Thursday that her latest is dedicated to her family, including her late gay uncle.
We were all lucky to get a sneak peek of the album with the song “Break My Soul” that came out this past June. The song not only made it onto Billboard’s top 10, but it also became the anthem for the Great Resignation.
The single samples from LGBTQ+ artist Big Freedia, who Bey previously collaborated with on “Formation.” For CNN, Jacquelyne Germain wrote that the song is inspired by the Black queer beginnings of house music.
As fans anticipated this new album’s full release, they turned to search for any clues that might reveal details of the project. Between Break My Soul’s debut and the album's release, Beyoncé only gave fans a glimpse of the art on and inside the CD and Vinyl editions. Though it was enough to have drawn immense speculation on what was to come.
However, last week the singer posted to her website a special message giving thanks to her family, which will be featured in the hardcopy of the album. The photo of her snuggling with her kids and a picture of her mother Tina Knowles and her uncle Johnny caught the eye of many fans.
Johnny is Tina’s nephew, but, growing up, Beyoncé and her sister Solange, referred to him as “uncle.” In the message, she expressed her love and gratitude for him, writing, “A big thank you to my uncle [Johnny]. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album. Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
This was not the first time the singer has spoken about their bond. In 2019, the 40-year-old music icon detailed how he has inspired her while accepting the Vanguard Award at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
“I want to dedicate this award to my uncle Johnny, the most fabulous gay man I ever knew, who helped raise me and my sister,” she said. Johnny died from HIV-related complications.
She and Jay-Z were given the award for their work as allies to the LGBTQ+ community. She continued her acceptance speech by saying, “He lived his truth. He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting. And witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived. I’m hopeful that his struggle helped to open pathways for other young people to live more freely. LGBTQIA rights are human rights.”
Beyoncé’s mother also thought the new album was reminiscent of her nephew. On July 25, Tina Knowles posted a video to her Instagram of her and artist Mark Bradford dancing to “Break My Soul.” In the caption, she referenced Johnny, writing, “Mark [Bradford] and I bonded over our loved ones that we lost way too young! So when Beyonce and I met Mark we looked at each other and both said ‘Johnny’ my very best friend and nephew who helped to raise my kids.”
At the end of the note, Beyoncé wrote to her fans about how she hopes her music can inspire them, just as much as her family inspired her; “To all of my fans: I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha! And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are.”