Beyoncé unleashing her rage, reclaiming her agency, and demanding the respect of her partner through a series of boasts, threats, and ultimatums, culminating in a “final warning,” where she throws her wedding ring at the camera.
CH. 4 – APATHY
Two rows of Black women seated inside a school bus, swaying back and forth, their faces and bodies covered in Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo’s “The Sacred Art of the Ori.”
Left, From NPR.org, members of the Washington Freedom Riders Committee prepare to leave New York for Washington, D.C., on May 30, 1961; right, from UC Berkley News, a Montgomery bus rides nearly empty as a result of the boycotts.
Overlaid with the line “Her God was listening,” a subtle suggestion that God is silent but present for Beyoncé’s suffering, one of many glimpses of hope for redemption.
Beyoncé as first a sleeping, silent, and suppressed servant and then emerging as the powerful, life-giving goddess Oshun.
Left, her denial transitions to rage and destruction, culminating with a vicious knockout blow of the camera and then, right, Beyoncé stampeding a row of cars in a monster truck.
CH. 3 – ANGER
“Anger stirs and wakes in her…There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
The Edna Karr High School marching band in streets of Algiers, a section of New Orleans also known as the 15th Ward. For nearly 150 years, this area served as the location where captive Africans were held before being sold into a lifetime of slavery.
As the murder revenge fantasy is described in poetry, the camera winds ominously down a dark stairwell to the chapter’s main setting: an underground parking garage.
Malcolm X’s Interjection
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Malcolm X, May 5, 1962
The words of Malcolm X at the funeral of Ronald Stokes are laid over visual portraits of everyday Black women on the streets in Louisiana. Their strength is silently yet effectively acknowledged as they stand strong, beautiful, and resilient despite their mistreatment.
Beauty, Struggle, and Strength
The black and white images of a circle of women underground, gowns tied together at the wrist, implies a shared struggle, one that binds them all. Their movements are individualized above, but inextricably linked.
Their movements go from being individual to now being in unison; their dress and unity representing the beauty and resilience Black women share.
Beyoncé’s Dominance and Aggression
Here we are confronted by Beyoncé for the first time in the chapter, shot from a low angle to show power. As she approaches the camera, it recedes further away, as if intimidated or emasculated by Beyoncé’s direct approach and confrontation.
Beyoncé in Chapter 1, with her hair covered: left, a hoodie in reference to Trayvon Martin and systemic injustice; right, a headwrap alluding to the the tignon laws of Louisiana, each implying her repressed state.
Fort Macomb: A Symbol of “the Curse” of Slavery
Fort Macomb, from Chapter 1, an actual relic of the American Civil War and a visual allusion to the West African castles of the slave trade. Left, a canted angle to create a sense of stress or disorientation; right, a wide landscape shot.
Left, Beyoncé tepidly approaching those ruins, which are again shot wide in landscape juxtaposed with a vast sky (right).
Beyoncé’s Leap of Faith
Beyoncé’s leap of faith is the destruction of the current self that’s required to resurrect into something new. Left, rack focus is used to only slightly obscure what looks like tears in her eyes, after which she symbolically removes her hood (center) and leaps (right). Notice her Christ-like pose as she falls.
CH. 2 – DENIAL
Left, Beyoncé doesn’t hit the ground, but rather falls into a large body of water, introducing the next chapter “Denial.” Right, Beyoncé sheds her clothes, revealing nude undergarment. Water is traditionally symbolic of life, rebirth, fertility, and spiritual cleansing.
Left, Beyoncé submerged in water is in direct contrast with her in a bathtub without water on “Intuition” (right).
The Flooded Bedroom
Left, Beyoncé swims into a bedroom furnished with New Orleans “Creole Style” furniture and finds herself sleeping in bed alone, seeming to represent her current role in her relationship: silent, still, and as she described, “less awake” (right).
Beyoncé opens her eyes, looks at her surroundings, and lets out a huge breath; she’s awake now, or, perhaps more accurately, she’s been reborn.
The S3 commemorative shirt image is inspired by the line “There’s a bull and a matador dueling in the sky” from the song “Solo” by Frank Ocean. The coloring is inspired by children’s rainbow “scratch art”, tying into the nostalgic childhood themes of Blonde. Finally, the two stargazing figures are young adults who may or may not be under the influence, reflecting the teenage experiences shared throughout Blonde (“We laid out on this wet floor/Away turf, no Astro/Mesmerized how the strobes glow”).
We also have standard Dissect logos tees available.
Dissect Season 3 will be premiering on Tuesday, May 15th on Spotify.
While Dissect will still be available on all podcast platforms, Spotify will have new episodes a week early as well as Spotify-exclusive bonus episodes.
You can also follow the official Dissect Pod Playlist profile on Spotify where you’ll find a handful of curated playlists by host Cole Cuchna, episode companion playlists, and collaborative playlists that listeners can contribute to directly.
I’ve teamed with artist/Dissect listener Hannah Sellers to create a book called The Blacker the Berry, now available for pre-order on Kickstarter. The book is a visual exploration of the social and historical context of Kendrick Lamar’s song “The Blacker the Berry.” Hannah created beautiful graphic collages that accompany my analysis of the song, and it really enhances your experience and understanding of Kendrick’s message. Seriously, this thing is absolutely gorgeous, a true piece of art.
For a limited time, you can back this project by pre-ordering your very own copy. We’ve also set a stretch goal, and if reached, we’ll donate $1 of every book sold to Social Works, a youth empowerment charity started by Chance the Rapper.
Throughout Dissect Season 1, we collected donations to benefit Compton’s Centennial High School music program. This was Kendrick Lamar’s alma mater, a school he’s since donated money to in an effort to keep off the streets and in the music studio.
On Friday, April 7th, the Centennial High Jazz Band traveled to Palo Alto, California to perform in the World Strides competition. After their performance, they went sightseeing in San Francisco.
For many of the kids, the trip was the first time traveling such a distance outside of Compton. Dissect funds were used for those kids could not afford the trip on their own, but were able to attend due to our support.
I had the opportunity to travel to Palo Alto, see the performance, and meet the band afterwards. Band director Manuel Castaneda was very gracious, and the kids themselves were very polite and appreciative. It was a beautiful experience, something I’ll never forget.
Thank you to all the Dissect listeners who donated to this cause. You helped to provide a memorable life experience for those would otherwise could not have attended. Small acts, big rewards.