Sporting four-inch heels, tight black pants and enormous hair, Solange Knowles struts into the swank lobby of Manhattan's Royalton Hotel. Sliding into her seat, she reaches for her Gucci purse and pulls out a scrunched-up piece of paper. She flattens the scrap against her knee and, before ordering food, uses it to clumsily wipe off her poppy red lipstick, leaving a smudge that makes her look a bit like a child who has gotten into her mother's makeup. "Ghetto, I know," she says with a laugh.
While Beyoncé's grace may be what we aspire to, somehow her rough-around-the-edges little sister seems a lot more real. It's something the ladies' mom is first to admit. "Solange is a firecracker," says Tina Knowles. "Even as a child she walked to the beat of her own drum. Where Beyoncé is very diplomatic, Solange just speaks her mind." Sings it, too.
This month, Solange will release her second album, "SoL-AngeL and The Hadley St. Dreams" (Music World Entertainment/Geffen Records), named for the area in Houston, Texas, that is home to the Knowles family business. Penned primarily by Solange herself, and produced by such luminaries as Q-Tip and Pharrell, the record highlights the 22-year-old's throaty vocals on an eclectic collection of sunshiny-pop and sultry grown-folks' material. Tracks glide seamlessly from the infectious bubblegum romp of "I Decided" to the more risqué "ChampagneChronicNightCap," with bad-boy rapper Lil Wayne.
If that title alone doesn't tell you Solange is no stencil of her sister, just ask the young star what her dad-ager, Mathew Knowles, had to say about a track extolling the virtues of some vices. "Actually, he loves that record," says the single mother of one. "I'm at the point where I want the freedom to express myself in every way. It's selfish, but it's all about me and it's all about the music I want to make." Dad agrees: "Solange has made an edgy, hipster record and her lyrics reflect that."
Listen to Solange's first single "I Decided" from her new album, "SoL-AngeL and The Hadley St. Dreams."