Freedom
by Beyoncé (featuring Kendrick Lamar)

Album: Lemonade (2016)
Charted: 40 35

Songfacts®:

  • The principle narrative of Lemonade concerns the breakdown and reconciliation of Beyoncé's marriage to Jay-Z. However, she also touches on the experience of black womanhood throughout the album. This soulful, motivational track is an anthem dedicated to African-American females.
  • Beyoncé enlisted Kendrick Lamar for this redemption song, the first collaboration between the two stars. The Compton rapper similarly brings women to the forefront in his verse, but also touches on his favored theme of institutionalized racism.
  • Just Blaze co-produced the track. A frequent Jay-Z collaborator, he worked on the albums The Blueprint, The Blueprint 2, and The Black Album. Beyonce's recruitment of her husband's frequent collaborator signifies that this is Lemonade's redemption song, following the anger vented on her cheating spouse during the first half of the album.
  • Carla Marie Williams is one of the credited songwriters. This British songwriter has co-penned hit UK singles for the likes of Alesha Dixon ("The Boy Does Nothing"), Girls Aloud ("Can't Speak French") and The Saturdays ("Not Giving Up"). In 2015 she worked with Naughty Boy on the song "Runnin' (Lose It All)," which also features Beyoncé. However, she didn't realise that her contribution had made it onto Lemonade until it was released. Williams explained to BBC Radio 1 Xtra:

    "Like everyone else I've been, 'Where is it? Where is it?' When someone is such a superstar you don't know if you're going to make it. So I've been sitting on the edge of my seat waiting like everyone else. Now it's happened I'm taking it in going, 'This is sick. Oh my God.' My mum just called about 40 hours later saying, 'Where's the song?'"
  • The song samples:

    The organ from Kaleidoscope's late 1960s cut "Let Me Try." It is a track from the little-known Puerto Rican band's only eponymous release.

    Folk preservationist Alan Lomax's 1959 field recording of Reverend R. C. Crenshaw's "Collection Speech / Unidentified Lining Hymn." Reverend R.C. Crenshaw's sermon enhances the song's gospel feel.

    The African American spiritual "Stewball" (credited here to Prisoner "22" at Mississippi State Penitentiary).
  • The moving black-and-white video features:

    The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner pictured with photos of their deceased sons.

    Disney star Zendaya and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg hanging out in a tree.

    Beyoncé and Jay Z's daughter, Blue Ivy, at her birthday,

    Also, Canadian model Winnie Harlow, actress Quvenzhané Wallis, Chloe x Halle (who are signed to Beyoncé's label), ballerina Michaela DePrince, and dozens more communing together at a large table.
  • The video also gives us the meaning behind the album's title. We learn that Beyoncé took it from a speech Jay Z's grandmother, Hattie White, gave at her 90th birthday party: "I've had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade."
  • Just Blaze told Spin how his contribution came about: "Beyoncé had a demo of the record that she had already been working on, and as she was working on it, she was like, 'Just Blaze has to do this.' It's like the prototypical Just Blaze sound: the whole '60, '70s [sampling], super-hard drums, feels like it should be played in the stadiums, sample chops - things of that nature. As she was working on it, I get a call, 'Beyoncé has this record…' I came and checked it out, she gave me all the parts, and we kinda knocked it out pretty quickly."
  • Just Blaze thought of recruiting Kendrick Lamar for the song early on in the process. He recalled: "It's funny because she had the same idea and we didn't even talk about it. By the time I went to go express to them that they should get Kendrick on the record, [Beyoncé's team] had already reached out to him to be on the record."
  • Carla Marie Williams told Fader that it took close to a year to create the track. She said:

    "Within 24 hours of hearing the song, [Beyoncé] recorded what we had so far, just to test herself out on it. Then she got to work on how she wanted to say the words properly. She's a visionary herself, so she started helping us find the direction of the song. She wanted it to be a female anthem, and we wanted to address certain issues. We met in the summer [of 2015], and in the beginning of 2016 we were still working on the second verse, trying to refine it. It wasn't just like, 'Yeah, take the song.' We really crafted it all together."
  • Beyoncé released a new video for the song on October 11, 2017 in honor of International Day of the Girl. The empowering clip features an international troupe of young ladies aged 5 through 11 dancing to and lip syncing the song. Unsettling statistics about girls are also shown throughout the visual.

    The short film was filmed in partnership with Chime for Change and The Global Goals, two organizations that fight for gender equality and the rights of young women.

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