Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Collaborators Speak Out: Just Blaze, Big Freedia, Malik Yusef & More
Beyoncé took the world by storm when she surprised fans with her sixth studio album, Lemonade, on Apr. 23 right after debuting her television special of the same name on HBO. The body of work is comprised of vulnerable tracks and images of social justice, all tightly packaged together with the essence of black girl magic. In a recent interview with Billboard, producer Just Blaze, songwriter Malik Yusef, and artist Big Freedia opened up about their experience collaborating with Beyoncé on the album.
Lemonade is laced with 12 tracks that explore topics of heartbreak, forgiveness, betrayal, growth, and healing within a relationship. The 34-year-old Texas Bama sparked infidelity rumors on husband Jay Z's end with a few of the songs, which sent the media into a frenzy and her BeyHive on a witch hunt for "Becky with the good hair."
The "Sorry" singer called on some of the biggest names in music like Kendrick Lamar, Diplo, and James Blake to make guest appearances on the project. Check out a few testimonies from three collaborators on the album below:
According to the New Jersey native, Beyoncé contacted him last summer and sent him an early demo version of "Freedom." Just Blaze broke down the different approaches he uses when taking on a song for a musician and described how he made the song feel like a live band was incorporated, instead of a sample loop.
He was actually the one who suggested a rapper jump on the track. Just Blaze had Kendrick Lamar in mind the whole time, but never mentioned his name specifically. Beyoncé was clearly feeling the same vibe, because that's just who she called to finish the song.
"She is one of those artists who is very involved every step of the way when it comes to the record, her overall vision for a project, the direction and how it should be rolled out," Just Blaze told Billboard. "She gave me the direction in terms of how she wanted it to feel, what she wanted it to sound like, the feeling she wanted the music to deliver, and she's the one who had the idea to come get me."
The New Orleans bounce artist received a random call from Beyoncé's camp while lying in bed. Bey asked Freedia to do some voice overs for "Freedom" after explaining the concept of the song. Freedia was sent a snippet of the song and she instantly knew which verses and ad-libs would be perfect for it. Beyoncé and her team ultimately loved it.
"She called me when it came out, and I just was very excited and humbled," Big Freedia told Billboard. "You know, we'd hung out before, but just to get this call to be on this track was just bigger than life for me and I was just so grateful."
The Chicago spoken word artist and musician considers Beyoncé a friend, revealing he's worked with her in the past. Yusef acted as a co-wrtier on the song, "Sandcastles" along with Vince Berry and Midian Mathers. He got the idea for the song back in 2014 after working on the Home Project for the Hip Hop Caucus. While developing it with Berry and Mathers, Beyoncé felt a connection with it and insisted on structuring the song in a way that only she can.
Yusef is amazed by Bey's work ethic, her ability to connect with fans, and transcend through music throughout the years.
"You know what's different? Beyoncé has grown," Yusef told Billboard. "She's matured. Everything must change, but some things don't change for the better. Beyoncé has changed for the better. It's a rare thing to see a person continue to evolve constructively."