On Saturday (April 23), Beyoncé finally awarded us the album we’d been waiting for. Like her 2013 surprise release, Beyoncé, Lemonade looks less like a traditional album and more like a cinematic spectacular; there’s a reason she snagged an hour-long slot on HBO to drop it.
How she managed to keep Lemonade a secret for so long is anyone’s guess. The visual album arrives chock full of celebrity features and all-star collaboration credits. Beyoncé doesn’t just have writers and producers; she puts together a team of brilliant artists who bring out the best in each other, and she acts as the creative director to the fruits of their collaboration.
Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo before it prove that the most salient music out there today isn’t the product of isolated genius, but the result of thriving creative communities assembled by artists who know how to pick their foils. Here’s your who’s who of Lemonade's most exciting credits.
The spoken-word interludes between each track on Lemonade aren’t lyrics, exactly; they’re poems, and they all originally come from the work of Warsan Shire, an award-winning Somali-British poet who aided Beyoncé in translating her work to the screen. In many ways, Lemonade is the perfect project for Shire to occupy the copilot’s seat. Music and film have both played a big part in her writing for years (she noted “I only write to music” in a 2013 interview), and all three forms of media combine here into one dazzling experience.
Fragments of Shire’s poems appear throughout Lemonade, including one of her most popular pieces, “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love."
Vampire Weekend front man and Twitter personality Ezra Koenig has a writing credit on “Hold Up,” a song he’d been kicking around for a while before it became part of Lemonade. Savvy Twitter users noted that Koenig tweeted a line from the song way back in 2011. Originally written as a gentle riff on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs's “Maps,” the tweet found its way into an early draft of “Hold Up” while Koenig was in the studio with Diplo working on what would become chapter two of Beyoncé’s second audiovisual novella.
The U.K. producer and singer made ripples back in 2011 with his glitchy, syrupy self-titled debut that made use of the human voice as an electronic instrument of its own. He’s since made fans in musical powerhouses like Kanye West and Brian Eno, and his collaborative partners range from Bon Iver to Chance the Rapper. Not only does Blake appear as a cowriter and coproducer on Lemonade, but he also gets a vocal feature on “Forward."
Formerly known as Wynter Gordon, Diana Gordon landed her first major writing credit at the age of 20, when her song “Gonna Breakthrough” appeared on Mary J. Blige’s 2005 album, The Breakthrough. She’s also written for Flo Rida and Jennifer Lopez and worked with Vince Staples on her own music. On Lemonade, Gordon cowrote and coproduced “Sorry" and holds writing credits on “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Daddy Lessons."
Father John Misty
You might recognize Father John Misty (a.k.a. Joshua Tillman) from Lana Del Rey’s “Freak” video, where he costarred as her leading man. He noted late last year that Beyoncé had enjoyed his Coachella set, but it looks like their meeting was a lot more productive than he originally let on. Tillman has a writing credit alongside Koenig on “Hold Up.”
If you haven’t already listened to Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 opus To Pimp a Butterfly, you’re missing out on some of the vital DNA powering Lemonade. From the spoken-word interludes to the narrative thrust of the project, Butterfly foreshadowed the scope and ambition of Beyoncé’s latest project. Lamar notably inspired David Bowie’s last album, and he appears here as a featured artist on the track “Freedom.” His work continues to inform some of the most powerful music to arrive in 2016.
The former front man of the now-disbanded White Stripes, Jack White also ranks alongside Beyoncé as one of Tidal’s head honchos. He gets a feature, production, and writing credit on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” where he can be heard playing bass.
Boots emerged as the most mysterious collaborator on Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album. By now, he’s made something of a name for himself, directing and starring in the short film Motorcycle Jesus and releasing his debut studio album, Aquaria. He returns on Lemonade’s sizzling “6 Inch."
Fresh off his feature on Kanye West’s “FML,” The Weeknd lends vocals to “6 Inch,” where he’s also credited as a cowriter. He just took home his first Grammy, too; guy is having one heck of a year.
Random white dude really is everywhere.