Today the world celebrates the release of Black is King, Beyoncé’s Lion King: The Gift-inspired full-length visual album. Amidst the shining glory of another Bey’ triumph—she wrote, directed, and produced the project—Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez interprets the circle of life’s darkest character.
Black is King is a visual companion piece to her The Gift soundtrack, and similarly follows the track of a young king on his rise to power. For The Gift, Beyoncé marshaled the talents of daughter Blue Ivy Carter, James Earl Jones, Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, and Burna Boy. On Black is King, the all-star lineup is further expanded to include Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kelly Rowland, who make appearances during Black is King’s “Brown Skin Girl” track.
Reyez appears on The Gift’s “SCAR,” alongside New Jersey rapper 070 Shake. In it, Reyez voices the motivational complexities of the film’s brother-slaying pretender to the throne.
The drama of Reyez’s original The Gift verse certainly translated to her presentation in Black is King. Here, Reyez emerges from a nighttime forest in all-black warrior wear to deliver a selection of her The Gift verse, just as the film’s elder king is slain in a crash with a pack of motorcycles (standing in for the wildebeests that took Mufasa’s life in the original tale.) Reyez’s lyrics hint at the challenges that lie ahead for young Simba: “In the jungle ain’t no Bible/Showtime, showtime, no recital.”
“Beyoncé and Lion King are synonymous with my childhood,” Reyez posted on Instagram upon The Gift’s release. “I’m on a f–king trip.”
You can check Bey’s third visual album on Disney+. The mogul says she spent the last year working on Black is King across three continents. The work features African languages prominently, from Zulu to Xhosa. Beyoncé is entirely aware of its potential impact on a world so fraught with Black oppression and protest.
“The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey,” she shared with fans in an Instagram post, announcing the trailer’s release. “We are all in search of safety and light. Many of us want change. I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books.”