The R&B star talks exclusively to Essence.com about motherhood, her music and the mystery surrounding her marriage
For the record, Solange Knowles, 21, is more than just Beyoncé’s younger sister. She’s more than the daughter of the mastermind behind arguably the biggest girl group in musical history. And yes, she's more than the rising teen star who married and became a mother in less than a year. Miss Solange wants it known that she’s also outspoken, artistic and fearless.
Here Essence.com chats one-on-one with the songwriter-musician-actress-model-mother about those plastic surgery rumors, her relationship with Lil Wayne and why big sis “B” is no competition.
ESSENCE.com: As you know there’s a lot of mystery surrounding your relationship with your husband, Daniel Smith, so let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way. Are you still married?
Solange Knowles: Well, I am no longer married, but I think it’s very important not to dish details. We are friends and we coparent our son. When he gets older I don’t want him to read anything about me saying anything about his father or vice versa. When there’s a child involved I think the less information given is best.
ESSENCE.com: So just to clear things up, how did you two meet?
S.K.: We met at a high school party through mutual friends. He was in high school and I was 13 and in middle school. We were together seven years, so it wasn’t just some random guy. We were basically high school sweethearts.
ESSENCE.com: Do you have any regrets about the situation? Did you feel forced or pressured to get married?
S.K.: No, I think every decision has made me who I am today. I’ve embraced everything because I know that only God can give life, no one else. I’m happy that I have a beautiful, wonderful, amazing child who’s made me a better person.
ESSENCE.com: Speaking of which, let’s talk about little Daniel Julez. How old is he now? Is he talking?
S.K.: Oh gosh, yes, he’s more than talking and has a smart mouth already. He’ll be 3 this month.
ESSENCE.com: Considering the talent that runs in your family, do you think he’s headed for the industry?
S.K.: Unfortunately, it seems like something he’s interested in. He really likes the limelight.
ESSENCE.com: He made an appearance on the Today Show with you to promote Baby Jamz. What is it and how did that come about?
S.K.: Baby Jamz is a passion project for me inspired by my son, who loves hip-hop music. I wanted to do a children’s album, which I talked about in the media a couple of times. This toy company that wanted to launch an urban toy line reached out to my father about me. I ended up giving them a lot of ideas and became an executive on the account. I had to go to Bentonville, Arkansas (Wal-Mart’s headquarters), put on my suit and make this presentation. It was really cool for me and good training as an executive. (These toys are available exclusively at Wal-Mart.)
ESSENCE.com: So does your son actually play with the toys?
S.K.: Oh, absolutely. And I’m kind of sick of hearing my voice on them.
ESSENCE.com: With all the work you’ve done with children’s entertainment, do you consider yourself a role model?
S.K.: Some people might say I can’t call myself a role model, having a son so young or doing whatever, but I hope people can look at the good things I do and learn from them. I don’t exactly aspire to be a role model for young girls, though. I think that puts too much pressure on you, and the minute you say you want to be a role model is the minute you’re going to have fingers pointed at you. At the end of the day, I just do the best I can.
ESSENCE.com: You’re working on a new album—how’s the record coming along and what can people expect?
S.K.: It’s titled Solange & The Hadley Street Dreams, and the sound of the record is very unique. It’s a melting pot of old sixties and seventies soul mixed with electronica. I wasn’t going to do another record because I didn’t want to be in the limelight. I liked staying home with my son and expressing myself through writing. But things happened in my life that I wanted to discuss and vent about, so that’s how the record came about.
ESSENCE.com: Would you say it’s different from your debut album, Solo Star ?
S.K.: Definitely because I was young when I recorded my first record. I knew what kind of artist I wanted to be, but I didn’t know how to carry it out. And I wasn’t brave enough to carry it out because I was more concerned with pleasing my label. For this record, I was blessed to go in the studio without anyone else’s direction. I think the reason I’m able to do this record is because I’m more confident in myself. I don’t have to feed into anybody’s expectations of me. You have to know when to say no and when it’s worth it to say yes.
ESSENCE.com: So have you written most of this album? Who else have you written for?
S.K.: I cowrote “Upgrade U” and “Get Me Bodied” on my sister’s record, and I have a song on Kelly’s album called “Love.” I also did a couple of commercial works for Wal-Mart and L’Oréal. I recently signed a publishing deal with EMI and they are definitely putting me to work. And I’ve written 80 to 90 percent of everything on my new album. The one cowrite I do have is with (R&B singer) Bilal. Other than him, I have Q-Tip on the record, who is someone I grew up admiring as an artist, and I have a song with Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry.
ESSENCE.com: What do you hope to accomplish with this album?
S.K.: First I want to create music that I enjoy and listen to. I just feel like a lot of my peers are in a superficial state, and everything is about clubbing and buying drinks. Nothing really has substance out right now. So I have many songs on this record that talk about life in general, the state of our society. I have a lot of records that inspire dreaming, which is so important as a young person, because a lot of people don’t know what they want to do yet; they don’t have any aspirations.
ESSENCE.com: What are some of the drawbacks of being in this industry?
S.K.: The lack of privacy is first and foremost. You just have to know that the more successful you get as an artist, the less of a normal life you have. It’s a trade-off. When I say I only want to reach a certain level (professionally), people look at me like I’m full of sh--. But when you get to a certain point, you can’t just go to the mall anymore, and I don’t know if I’m willing to ever give that up.
ESSENCE.com: So you don’t aspire to your sister’s level of superstardom?
S.K.: No, I don’t want to get that far. (Laughs) I feel really bad for my sister. I’m always like “Oh, let’s go to the mall” or “Let’s go here” and she can’t. I enjoy having that.
ESSENCE.com: But do you ever feel as if you have to compete with her?
S.K.: No, I think that as artists we’re totally different, and when this record comes out it will express that. But I admire my sister so much. She’s one of my role models in that she is successful and classy. She’s very diplomatic and lives her life true to self.
ESSENCE.com: She’s been known to say she doesn’t go on the Internet because of all the craziness. Do you avoid the Web and reading what’s in the blogosphere?
S.K.: People actually e-mail me the links all the time, and I’m like “Okay, thanks I really wanted to see that.”
ESSENCE.com: Let’s address some of the rumors out there. Apparently, folks believe you left your husband for Lil Wayne. Is that true?
S.K.: (Laughs) That’s absolutely not true. Yes, we know each other but I absolutely did not leave my husband for him.
ESSENCE.com: There’s also been some buzz that you had cosmetic surgery—a nose job.
S.K.: (Laughs) Not true. I’ve heard that one, too. That one actually cracked me up. I mean if I got some surgery, I would wait until I’m older and pop out a couple more kids.
ESSENCE.com: So even if you had had cosmetic surgery, you wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it?
ESSENCE.com: What’s the craziest rumor you’ve heard about yourself?
S.K.: I think the craziest rumor was that my dad paid my son’s father $1 million to marry me. That was everywhere at one time, and that was really funny. I always joke that I wish we had it like that: “Here, take a million dollars, marry her…”
ESSENCE.com: Your dad once said you were the family’s “secret weapon.” Does that mean folks better get ready for your musical arsenal?
S.K.: (Laughs) Umm, he could’ve meant that in a couple of different ways. There are a lot of times when people are diplomatic about things and I’m not that type. I’m not afraid to say exactly what I mean. I don’t feel like I owe anybody other than my child and my family anything. So if someone has opinions about something, then that’s fine, but I’m not going to just smile and hold it in. Also I think I’m a little different in the fact that if someone tells me to go right, I usually go left.
Photo Credit: Kenny Haner