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Who had the biggest impact on the decade? Some of its top players nominate the person they most admire

Angela Merkel faces Donald Trump at last years G7 summit. Photograph: Getty Images

Tim Cook on Angela Merkel

Raised in an era of repression, stagnation and surveillance in East Germany, she has not wasted one breath of free air

Tim Cook has been the CEO of Apple since 2011. Here, he nominates German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tim Cook

These are challenging times, and naysayers may tell you to measure this decade by its darkest moments. Angela Merkel, with her quiet strength, dignity and abiding faith in the free world, shows us every day why we should choose optimism instead. Raised in an era of repression, stagnation and surveillance in East Germany, she has not wasted one breath of free air. She has spent her career in public life keeping alive the idea that we are bigger than our differences, that shared belief in powerful values can bind us closer than skin colour, or language, or national history.

She has been an unshakable cornerstone of the European project. She has been a visionary advocate for carrying forward the fundamental right to privacy into the digital age. She has been a steady economic hand during years of crisis and rising uncertainty. And she has shown steadfast commitment to the values of freedom, inclusivity and the rule of law amid Europes migration crisis. Through every twist and turn, through every seemingly intractable challenge, she has come out looking wiser, more prudent and more durable than those who have doubted her.

Not merely a trailblazer as Germanys first female leader, she has become a great standard-bearer for what leadership ought to look like. In many instances, she could have made a much easier path for herself by banging on the podium and finding scapegoats, in trading long-term prosperity for short-term advantage. But she knows what lurks at the end of that road, and she has never been willing to take even a single step down it.

I was fortunate to meet her for the first time in 2015, and every time weve met since then she has been quick to flash that small, knowing smile, eyes crinkling with the conviction and confidence of a leader who has seen worse and who knows, even when surrounded by doubters, that we are headed somewhere better. I admire her greatly, and I wish we had more like her.

Maria Ressa faces the media in Manila after an overnight arrest on a libel case. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/AP

Amal Clooney on Maria Ressa

She is a journalist who has chosen to risk her life to do her job and we are all better off as a result

Amal Clooney

Amal Clooney is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, specialising in international law and human rights. Here, she nominates journalist Maria Ressa, who in 2012 cofounded Rappler, one of the first multimedia news websites in the Philippines.

Maria Ressa is 5ft 2in, but she stands taller than most in her pursuit of the truth. Like any journalist in the Philippines, she has two choices: toe the government line and be safe; or risk her life to do her job. She has chosen the latter, and we are all better off as a result.

Maria is a Filipino-American woman who became CNNs bureau chief in south-east Asia. Seven years ago, she teamed up with three female colleagues to set up the online news website Rappler. And very quickly it made waves.

Rappler is now one of the most influential sites in the Philippines, and, like any responsible journalist, Maria has been critical of the governments record. Rappler has published reports on corruption by President Dutertes administration, his weaponisation of social media to silence critics, and his support for death squads that have reportedly murdered more than 27,000 Filipinos in the name of a war on drugs. The authorities have responded with the full weight of the state. Duterte has vilified Marias reporting as fake news. He has helped amplify online attacks against her, and Rappler at one point had its operating licence revoked.

Dutertes administration is now pursuing Maria through a series of prosecutions that seek to criminalise alleged sales of her companys stocks to a foreign entity, and directly target her reporting with charges of criminal libel. She now faces a sentence of up to 63 years behind bars. According to Marias local lawyers, this is the first time in recent history that such laws have been used to target a journalist in one of Asias oldest democracies. But it is a sign of things to come.

This is why, Maria has told me, she has to defend herself against the charges. When I first met her, she was out on bail as she is today speaking at a conference in New York. When she asked me to act as her lawyer, I asked whether there was any judge in the Philippines who could be fair and independent enough to acquit her. She was not sure. I asked whether anyone other than Duterte would have the power to pardon her? They did not. Despite these odds, she went home. And I took the case. Because, as Maria explained, she is holding up the ceiling for anyone else who dares to speak.

Doing so is already dangerous. The UN has found that there has been a deterioration of the human rights situation under Duterte, including through the repeated targeting of journalists. The president has called journalists spies and warned that they are not exempted from assassination. If Maria, a US citizen, can now be locked up for doing her work, the message to other journalists and independent voices is clear: be quiet, or youll be next.

Marias struggle is one that defines our times. Data gathered in the last few years shows more journalists being imprisoned and killed than at any time since records began, threatening the very foundations of democracy and a free society. Authoritarian leaders have every advantage over those they try to intimidate, yet people like Maria are fighting back.

Maria is speaking truth to power. She is holding up the ceiling for others. If it comes crashing down, I will do all I can to get her out.

Vitalik Buterin: He is at the forefront of a new wave of globalism. Photograph: Ethan Pines/The Forbes Collection/Contour RA

Micah White on Vitalik Buterin

People told me Occupy was a bad idea. Vitaliks cryptocurrency will defy people in the same way

Micah White

Micah White founded the economic protest movement Occupy Wall Street in 2011. He published The End Of Protest: A New Playbook For Revolution in 2016. Here, he nominates programmer Vitalik Buterin, who cofounded the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

In activism, its hard to break out of the consensus to propose a new idea, and not let being shut down stop you. Vitalik Buterin has done just that. Hes only 25. He invented Ethereum when he was 19 and studying Bitcoin. He basically wanted to embed a computer inside money, via programs known as smart contracts. The idea was rejected by the Bitcoin community, but he pushed forward, and now Ethereum is one of the decades most promising technologies for social change.

Vitalik is interested in how technology can be used for good. The Bitcoin community couldnt care less about that; theyre just trying to make money. When I met Vitalik, he asked, Do you think were going to be able to tokenise natural resources? What he meant was: can we take a natural resource and represent it as a cryptocurrency, so that the value of the coin increases if the resources are protected? This is a whole different direction for environmental activism.

Ethereum is a system of smart contracts that are completely binding they are unchangeable and publicly verifiable. Key aspects of international agreements, such as the Paris agreement to combat climate change, could be more easily enforced if people could tell when promises had been broken. Youd be shifting power away from corruptible international organisations. In that sense, Vitalik is at the forefront of a new wave of globalism.

In the future well see other activists creating new forms of money that embody their economic ideals. I dream of redistributive currencies that automatically share a portion of each transaction with everyone in the economy. A lot of the ideas that have been floating around the left, like the Robin Hood tax on financial transactions, are hard to implement in the real world but easy to implement with a cryptocurrency. Imagine the reaction when governments realise global social movements are using Ethereum in ways that we never predicted.

The most impactful changes come from the places that we least expect. When we came up with Occupy Wall Street, everyone told me it was a bad idea and they werent interested. I see a similar reaction with Ethereum: people cant see its potential, and that is why it will defy them.

Marai Larasi: She is there for people who have no one and nothing. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Emma Watson on Marai Larasi

My abiding memory of the Globes? We picked tarot cards together and she wore the best shoes

Emma Watson

Actor Emma Watson was appointed UN Women goodwill ambassador in 2014 and helped launch HeForShe, a UN campaign for the advancement of gender equality. Here, she nominates Marai Larasi MBE, who was until recently the executive director of black feminist organisation Imkaan and co-chair of the End Violence Against Women coalition. In 2018, she and Watson attended the Golden Globes together as part of the launch of Times Up.

Marai Larasi is mother to Ikamara and Jahred, but she is a mother to many. She is the person on the frontline of the issues I care about in the UK from feminism to LGBTQI+ rights. Throughout this decade, Marai has supported and championed women who have survived unimaginable abuses. She is there for people who have no one and nothing, in their hardest moments.

Who knows whats going to happen in the next decade? If the apocalypse comes, Id ride into battle in her wake. This would definitely make her laugh because she is the least violent person I know, in word, gesture and thought, even though she speaks beautifully about rage. She is all sorts of beautiful contradictions.

She is contained, having carefully learned to wield her energy. She knows when to use it and when not to, and knows that no is a complete sentence. She is passionately vegan, in the funniest, least self-aggrandising or patronising way possible. She just cocks her head sideways at people as if to say, What on earth are they doing, eating animals? Shes a neat freak. Whatever Marie Kondo is on, Marai is on, too. Again, if the apocalypse comes, Im hiding out in Marais room. She is heavy and light, old and young, an anvil thats fluid.

My abiding memory of attending the Golden Globes with Marai? Two things. We picked tarot cards before we went, and she wore the best shoes Ive ever seen. I bought her fluffy Birkenstocks as a thank you gift, which her children think are an abomination. I am told she wears them anyway.

I wish I could name the single most impactful thing she has done over the last decade, but I havent known her long enough, and she is notoriously modest, rarely speaking about all that she is juggling. Personally, though, it was probably something incredibly simple she said to me the first time we met. We were at Imkaan and she introduced herself as a black lesbian feminist. Why, I asked, did she feel the need to define herself this specifically? She answered and later sent me an Audre Lorde quote explaining that it is our differences that make us more powerful, not weaker. Knowing our experiences are different doesnt fracture us; it makes us more intimate, stronger, more connected.

I find her presence in the world profoundly comforting. Ive never met a woman I felt had more of the answers.

Yann LeCun: Image recognition wouldnt be possible without his work. Photograph: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg/via Getty Images

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger on Yann LeCun

If you see a self-driving car, or scan a cheque with your banks app thats all down to Yann

Kevin Systrom

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched the photo-sharing app Instagram in 2010, before stepping down last year. Here, they nominate Yann LeCun, the chief AI scientist at Facebook.

Kevin Systrom When Mike and I left, we asked, Whats had the most effect on Instagram over the years? And we both agreed it was machine learning. Yann LeCun is one of the very few people to move it from being a buzzword to something that really mattered to companies and academics alike. Machine learning revolutionised Instagram, from suggesting friends to follow, to watching out for objectionable content.

Image recognition wouldnt be possible without Yanns work. It has transformed all sorts of industries. Being able to look at satellite data and understand global warming, or content on Instagram that needs to be followed up by law enforcement the things that keep people safe or transform the world in a meaningful way wouldnt be possible without him.

Mike Krieger

Mike Krieger Yann has been in the field of AI and machine learning since the late 80s, but its only in the last 10 years that the rest of the industry has caught up; his impact is now everywhere. If youre on the street and you see a self-driving car, or youre on Instagram and you feel safe because something has been removed, or if you do something as trivial as scanning a cheque using your banks app, thats all down to Yann.

The whole area of how AI can keep us safe online will continue to be important as the amount of content posted on all of these networks grows. In the next 10 years, Yann will be able to take machine learning from something that was typically done on very large computers to something that runs on peoples phones. It can help you take better photos because it knows whats in the image; it can help you solve all kinds of problems.

Leading a creative revolution whose ripples were seen from Kanye to Donald Glover to Little Simz, Beyonc consigned the idea of performers sticking to the music to history

By now, its a cliche. You have as many hours in a day as Beyonc, the saying goes. You can find its words slapped on mugs, T-shirts and Instagram quotes or murmured into the bathroom mirror as a bleary-eyed morning affirmation. The backlash (largely led by white women) to this tongue-in-cheek attempt at self-motivation has already pointed out its blind spots around class. Of course, you, regular human with looming mounds of debt and bills, cant maximise your time like a pop star with entire creative and personal teams to eliminate her drudgery. Thats obvious.

But the sentiment that Beyonc would, at one point, have been a nobody just like you, with as much time to work with still holds true. Like her or not, she leveraged a childhood work ethic into a career that spreads beyond her role as a performer. Yes, Beyonc is a singer. Yes, she often co-writes. In addition, she is also an all-round entertainment mogul, directing documentaries and music visuals, executive-producing film soundtracks and commanding a wider, ephemeral level of cultural influence not to mention moving into fashion.

She isnt alone. Over the past decade, black labour in music has produced a new understanding of musicians as curators a word that neatly describes the ways black artistry has evolved with the times. As music has become more visual and omnipresent, weaving itself into ads, apps and other art forms, the most impactful acts of the 2010s have found ways to integrate those outlets into their own output: theyve become industries unto themselves. Music may be their anchor, but for everyone from Rihanna to Janelle Mone to Kanye West, its just one part of their contribution to culture. Working within the framework of an exploitative industry, these black musicians have created a space that allows for at least a semblance of autonomy.

Her work functions like a mirror held up to black women … Janelle Mone performing in October. Photograph: Chelsea Lauren/WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

In January 2010, Beyonc announced a hiatus. She retired her Sasha Fierce alter ego and didnt release new recorded material until the following year. (For Beyonc, a hiatus only lasts 18 months.) It marked the first time she had put an explicit homage to soul, classic R&B and more ambitious arrangements ahead of profit. Shed never sounded blacker.

She also retired her father, Matthew Knowles, as her manager and took on that responsibility herself, via her company Parkwood Entertainment. When I decided to manage myself, it was important that I didnt go to some big management company, she said in 2013. I felt like I wanted to follow the footsteps of Madonna, and be a powerhouse and have my own empire and show other women when you get to this point in your career, you dont have to go sign with someone else and share your money and your success you do it yourself.

You can almost follow a direct line from this moment to her current work, which is increasingly pro-black, self-examining and intimate. Her quest for self-affirmation played out publicly when she came forward in 2015 as one of the artist-owners of streaming service Tidal, along with husband Jay-Z and just about every A-list musician around at the time. With more economic freedom came the ability to do as she pleases: that much was obvious from her heavily autobiographical self-titled album, surprise-released in 2013, then Lemonade in 2016.

This transition reverberates in the work of peers whove followed in her wake. On opposite sides of the pond, London rapper Little Simz and Afro-futuristic artist Janelle Mone embody the importance of owning the means of production. Simz self-released her first mixtape in 2010, aged 16, on label Age 101 a place for her and the rest of her Space Age rap collective to share their work. By 2013, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar had taken notice. Since then, Simz has branched off into comics, curated a genre-hopping festival Welcome to Wonderland: The Experience and returned to acting (see her now in the Netflix revival of Top Boy). Shes navigated the industry as both an eternal outsider and one of Britains most talented rappers, which seemed to frustrate her at first. The business caught up eventually a Mercury shortlisting here, some Radio 1 airplay there though these days she appears less bothered about external validation, perhaps having realised that the industry needs her more than vice versa.

Rihanna scaled unprecedented levels by becoming the first black woman to head up a luxury fashion brand. Photograph: Caroline McCredie/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty by Rihanna

Mone, meanwhile, co-founded the Wondaland Arts Society which is a film and TV production company, a record label and an organising core for activism in Atlanta. When she moved there from Kansas City in 2001, her art-pop sound and left-field approach soon piqued the interest of Outkasts Big Boi. He introduced her to fellow polymath Sean Combs, who signed her in 2006. As a producer, social justice activist and actor (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) she chooses to uplift black people while acknowledging our complexities. Her 2018 album Dirty Computer confronted questions of gender, sensuality and desire; she can model in a Cover Girl campaign, lead a Black Lives Matter march and be CEO of a record label all roles that show dark-skinned black women theyre more than a worn-out stereotype. Her work functions like a mirror held up to black women, offering them representation in ways that white gatekeepers wouldnt instinctively understand.

This decade, I watched black musicians defy other traditional gatekeepers in the hard-to-crack world of fashion. Like Beyonc, Rihanna entered music as a teen, signing to Def Jam at 17. Now, shes scaled unprecedented levels by becoming the first black woman to head up a luxury fashion brand, with Fenty in partnership with French company LVMH. At the start of the decade, few would have seen her evolution coming. During her Loud era, all shrill EDM production and flame-red hair, she felt easy to dismiss as a pop-machine puppet, singing words written by other people. Now shes a savvy businesswoman, equally at home with music as with philanthropy, acting, design and beauty. Her line Fenty Beauty has shaken the cosmetics industry to its core, forcing a diversity of makeup shades into the market as her competitors scramble to react a sign of what will become a norm. Her Savage x Fenty line does the same for lingerie, essentially ringing the death knell for the Victorias Secret catwalk show by employing a diverse cast of models, as she did at New York fashion week in September.

This matters on two levels. Rihannas success in fashion and beauty moves her away from seeming like a product that belongs to her record label. She becomes a person and force of her own Fenty, after all, is her real-life surname. And by steering all these seemingly disparate parts into one brand, she is creating a new set of norms for black art. Plenty of her peers have seen how investing in and executing a broader vision can support, rather than distract from, their music. Consider the likes of Tyler, the Creator, Solange, Kanye West, Dev Hynes, Frank Ocean and Donald Glover, and you realise how their multifaceted work shaped some of the most important western pop culture of the decade.

Our notions of what counts as black art no longer need to be defined by the global norths white mainstream. Since the 80s, black genres from hip-hop and house to R&B have led countercultures. But those genres used to be put into neat boxes black culture, to be consumed in specific ways and places, without needing to care about the experiences behind the work. Now, black music soundtracks global teendom. Now, Kanye West can endure being laughed out of fashion circles before turning Yeezy into a billion-dollar company. West brought a certain kind of self-conscious tastefulness to his work as a designer, continuing to kick back against convention just as he had as a middle-class art-school kid during his mid-2000s backpack-rap era. (Hardly the usual thug life backstory easier to sell to white consumers.) Glover, meanwhile, can rap (and sing) as Childish Gambino, and also create and executive produce a TV show as lush as Atlanta. Solange can create performance art, with installations for New Yorks Guggenheim and LAs Hammer Museum and Londons Tate Modern. Once you realise youre more than a preconceived notion of a black artist, or of black industry, entire worlds open up.

These polymaths show that you can eschew one neat categorisation and do so on your own terms … Donald Glover as Earn in Atlanta. Photograph: FX Productions

These musicians stories are aligned in a quest for true independence. Such a thing cant exist within the parameters of a business designed for profit historically, recording contracts let labels exploit artists. Yet this type of multifaceted black labour rebukes the idea that youre only worth the figure on your first contract. Frank Oceans Endless album/livestream, a quick way out of his Def Jam contract before he released Blonde, brought these delicate chess moves to life. One of the most boring critiques of Beyonc is that shes just a cog in a corporate machine. But the fact that any of these artists turn their talent into products doesnt negate their overall value.

Black children are always taught that we have to work twice as hard to gain half as much recognition. These displays of black labour, of a relentless drive to excel in various ways and a refusal to be defined by one skill, push that adage to an extreme. These polymaths show that you can eschew one neat categorisation and do so on your own terms. Black American fans of Beyonc would have recognised the cultural references others missed in Homecoming, her 2018 Coachella festival performance, an ode to historically black American universities. Later, it was turned into a Netflix special produced by you guessed it Parkwood Entertainment. The decade in Beyonc drew to a close with her executive-producing 2019s pan-African Lion King reboot soundtrack, The Gift, in addition to voicing Nala in the film.

The idea of performers just sticking to the music is all but dead. In the next decade, it may well become the norm for black artists to explore other creative avenues without being mocked or cut down. As pop music shifts away from English as lingua franca, new global acts could begin to dominate in spaces previously only held by this crop of multitalented public figures.

Seen at a glance, they can inadvertently make hard work appear effortless, and as though youre failing if youre not squeezing as much productivity out of every day as Beyonc. But that misses the point. These artists have poured buckets of themselves into these accomplishments, and have done so while working in an industry still mired in institutional racism, sexism and one that treats duty of care as an afterthought. They made the choice to seek self-determination sometimes at a high cost. What you do with your 24 hours is up to you.

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At an immersive, city-wide multimedia presentation of her new album When I Get Home, the singer-songwriter explains how her childhood home of Houston nourished her creative spirit

Its one thing to think with your spirit, says Solange Knowles. Its another to actually live it through your body. The Solange of today works with feelings, grooves, and frequencies in mind. If A Seat at the Table, her breakthrough third album, was a lyrically dense record about the complexities and struggles of the black American experience, then When I Get Home, her latest release, is the sonic manifestation of that blackness. Staccato rhythms and meditative mantras designed to ground and heal her after time on the road ripple on through the bodies of her listeners. Its an album about settling into familiarity: with yourself, the people around you, and the places one calls home.

At the SHAPE community center in the third ward of Houston last Sunday evening, the record comes to life during a screening of a film, also entitled When I Get Home, that Solange created and directed to accompany the album. Despite the celebrities in attendance, this isnt a premiere. The album arrived days before, with the film launching simultaneously on Apple Music and the recently revived, early-internet social network Black Planet. Instead, it is a celebration of her return to her roots.

Listen to Almeda by Solange

After previous projects reflected time spent in the deserts of California and a township in Cape Town, Solanges native Houston serves as the inspiration for her latest and most challenging work. For years, she existed to most people as just the little sister of global superstar Beyonc; her talents needed the right outlet to radiate. Her first taste of the spotlight was as a backup dancer for her sisters group, Destinys Child. By her late teens, she began crafting songs for the group and its members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, plus gospel girl group Ramiyah. She even worked on two of her sisters best and most underrated hits, Upgrade U and Get Me Bodied, from Beyoncs second solo album BDay.

With blockbuster producers including Timbaland and The Neptunes, Solo Star, Solanges debut album released in 2002 at the age of 16, now sounds more like the inner workings of her label and management than anything she would make for herself. It was not until Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams, her second album released nearly six years later, when she began to break through, at least in the indie world. Influenced by 60s and 70s Motown, the album was a far cry from her debut, abandoning what was fashionable to focus on the aesthetics that moved her most a tactic that later fed into the minimalist synths structuring 2012s True EP.

But it was not until A Seat at the Table in 2016 that the rest of the world began to take notice. The album, which makes weighty ruminations on black American female identity feel universal, went gold in the US and led to headline festival performances. Cranes in the Sky, a fan favourite single from the album, won her a Grammy for best R&B performance.

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Thank you to alll of uuuu! Im coming up for air and overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love U sharing. Thank you for always giving me the space to expand and evolve and express. For constantly opening up my world, and allowing me to show you my own new ones. I express for survival, for breath. This shit gave me so much joy to make! I wasnt afraid. My body wasnt either, even at times of uncertainty. I love and appreciate u guys infinitely. You make me feel safe and held even in this big big strange world. I cant thank you enough. Its been hard to answer where home is, hard to know if its past or future…this album and film is one stream of thought and reflection into answering that. I thank you for your time and energy experiencing it with meee. So much love!

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So where is Solange now? Consider a scene toward the end of her film. Tens of dancers, in varying shades and sizes dressed in black, gather around a white circular object in a sparse, desert-like setting three curved, disconnected and multi-tiered structures form a circle, with groups interspersed throughout. This is not just a music video, it is video art, a sculpture of massive proportions, performance art, and more, all for one song. She turns the genre of R&B into a massive, interdisciplinary space to explore, build, and play.

Im thinking about the possibility of maybe some young black girl in 20 years needing to reference a black sculptor whos making work that large, and in landscape like that, and the blessing and privilege [that] I might come up in that search, Solange begins. Of course, I want to make these massive landscapes and express these parts of me … because its beautiful, and I want to make astounding work. But I really want to make work to be discovered 50 years from now.

Time on the road promoting and performing for A Seat at the Table mentally, physically, and emotionally disjointed her. I had so much to give on my last project while also needing to heal and work on myself, she says. [A Seat at the Table] was for everybody. I wanted it to be. And [When I Get] Home is for me.

I think any time you go through something like that, you crave things that remain the same, she says, referring to the gruelling tours for her previous album. I know that at any given time in my life, I can come back here, to Houston, to third ward, and have these anchors. And she did quietly renting a house and writing new music to reflect her journey. The longer I was here, the more these sort of things that might have been mundane to me, visually, started to really enrich me.

Guests from the screening got a closer glimpse of Solanges Houston, her first home. There was Emancipation Park, first formed in 1872 the oldest in Texas, it was once the only public park open to black people in the state. A friendly middle-aged security guard roaming the premises spoke of how the neighbourhood had changed as a result of gentrification. What was once the battleground of an infamous shootout between Houston police and the Black Panthers, has since transformed into a vast, inviting space, featuring everything from a community centre and playground, to pools, athletic courts, and a live concert venue.

In 2016, she made headlines as an advocate and participant in the #BlackBank movement, which encouraged black Americans to move their money into black-owned banks Knowles chose Unity National, the only African American-owned bank in Texas. Inside a nearby branch, a spokeswoman offers cards and pamphlets about its services while red leather chairs, typically reserved for staff and customers, were used as seating for a screening of Knowless film.

And there was the Vita Mutari salon, previously owned by Solanges mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, for 20 years. The singer describes it as a ground for her creativity, and although the family no longer occupy the space, the current owners continue to maintain that creative spirit, with large pieces of art lining the walls and neon coloured bottles of hair products.

Each location (there were nine in total) held meaning for Solange; bits and pieces of this Houston found their way into her work. Blackness will never go away, she says. Its who I am. Its what I know. Ill always be a black woman, and Ill always create work from this black womans body. Ill always be from third ward.

Texans are grounded in their culture. Although the state may often be the source of ridicule by outsiders, there has been and always will be innovation born out of its simultaneous vastness and insularity. Only here could you get a mix of zydeco tunes, rhinestone-covered African American cowboys, block-wide churches, barbecue, purple drank and Nasa. Its this editing this commingling and distillation of seemingly disparate things that defines When I Get Home.

Artwork from When I Get Home by Solange. Photograph: Saint Records

Editing gives me the space to experiment and then hone back on the things that were whack, Solange says. I feel a lot of safety and comfortability in editing. She says it accounts for 80% of her work. When I Get Homes long, insular and solo writing sessions, as well as the improvisational studio sessions with a bevy of collaborations in the vein of free-form jazz, will be indiscernible to the average listener but she took bits and pieces from those sessions and folded them into overall tracks.

Focusing on specific lines became not only a part of the editing session, it became the foundation of the album. Inspired by the likes of Alice Coltrane and Stevie Wonders Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, repetition such as the brown liquor, black braids, black waves of standout track Almeda, or the lyrics to Binz, reclaiming the concept of CP (coloured peoples) time helped reinforce the frequencies she craved to heal. When I said, I saw things I imagined, maybe the first four times, I didnt actually really believe it, but by the eighth time, its coming into my spirit, coming into my body, she says.

Back at SHAPE, the most important faces in the crowd are not celebrities or cool kids. They are the childhood friends who once formed a rough band with the artist during her adolescence. They are the young, Texas-bred creatives who collaborated on the film, and the Instagram hotties who steal the show in its Solange-less parts. These are her people, the true essence of home, even if the rest of us were just getting to know them. All of them helped form her singular vision; all of them mattered. She calls the whole project a true reflection of who I am, the things that I love to listen to, the things that I love to experience; a snapshot of myself. It just feels good. Thats what home does to you.

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In its sophomore year at New Yorks Randalls Island Park, the festival marked Frank Oceans first performance in the city in five years, and A Tribe Called Quests last ever

In just its second year, Panorama has already become a mainstay on the summer festival circuit. Evidence of this came in the vast crowds, numbered in the tens of thousands, and a slate of headliners Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, and A Tribe Called Quest among them that rivaled those of more established festivals such as Britains Glastonbury, LAs FYF, and Tennessees Bonnaroo. Panorama still remains, as it was dubbed in its inaugural year, the younger sibling to southern Californias Coachella, although, judging by the throngs of supermodels in attendance, its well on its way to being a worthy cross-country successor, insofar as optics indicate a music festivals cool factor.

The grounds at New Yorks Randalls Island Park, which also hosts the rival Governors Ball in June, were awash with gleeful fans sauntering between stages in colorful variations of summer concert attire (knit tank-tops, distressed overalls, white leather sneakers ranging in tone from the pristinely white to the mud-soaked). The crowd was also discernibly younger than the standard horde of festival-goers. As the sun set on Friday evening, rain had been in the forecast. But by the time Tyler, the Creator took the stage at the Pavilion, a short walk from the main stage, where the festivals headliners performed across the field, shades of bright orange and purple emerged, a New York City sunset befitting of hip-hops resident flower boy.

Tyler, the Creator The Pavilion

At around 7pm, Tyler, the Creator appeared onstage outfitted in his signature Golf Wang gear, a pair of botanic pink pajama pants paired with a zip-up red sweater that seemed ill-advised in the summer heat. Of course, this being Tyler, the Creator, the red sweater would soon come off and hed perform most of the set shirtless.

Tyler, the Creator. Photograph: Chris Lazzaro

He went to play a range of songs from his new record, whose name Flower Boy was reflected in the daffodils, pine trees and sunflower patches that lined the stage. Appropriately, he kicked off with the whimsical, piano-driven Where This Flower Blooms. This new, lighter Tyler could be chalked up to the 26-year-olds maturation or, as many have suspected, to the fact that on his latest album he seems to come out of the closet or suggest, with oblique references to romances with other men, that his sexuality is fluid.

Jerking side to side and practically doing sprints across the stage, Tyler had that glowing but self-conscious veneer of an artist playing new songs for the first time, and he professed to the crowd that he was nervous about performing them. But judging by their reception, and the clouds of weed smoke that kept rising to the Pavilions awning, the rappers first appearance at Panorama was a rabble-rousing success.

Solange. Photograph: Nikki Jahanforouz

Solange Panorama stage

Solange began her headlining set on the festivals main stage with the same song that opens her stunning 2016 record A Seat at the Table, perhaps the best full-length release of last year. Fall in your ways, she began on Rise, so you can wake up and rise, harmonizing for a good minute and a half on that last word with her backup singers, whom she matched in red monochrome getups. The band and the stage, too, were awash in shades of orange and red, which made for a striking scene against the cotton-candy sky.

Solange appeared immensely comfortable throughout; shes a performer who prefers elegant synchronized movements to the blistering, run-the-world choreography of her older sister Beyonc. But it made perfect sense, especially as she was performing hits Weary, Mad, Cranes in the Sky from a mellow and melodic record that doubled as a powerful meditation on her experience as a black woman. Halfway through her set, after a number of slow-burners, she brought out a 20-piece horn section for an extended version of her hit F.U.B.U, dismounting from the stage and joining her fans in the crowd, appropriately, for an acronymic anthem whose title stands for for us, by us.

Frank Ocean Panorama stage

Seeing the reclusive Frank Ocean live was not only a rare experience but also, as thousands of us stood in the singers thrall, a religious one. True to form, he took the stage a bit late, but by the time the studio version of his chaotic song Pretty Sweet began, announcing the singers imminent arrival at just his second North American performance in four years, the anticipation had morphed into something profound.

Frank Ocean. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Oceans a mixture of songs from his dual 2016 releases Endless and Blonde was a kind of communal reckoning, marked by an astounding intimacy given the size of the crowd. Ocean was remarkably emotive, his natural timidity on display between spurts of vocal catharsis, as when he asked the crowd to help him through the the break-up track Ivy, the Ocean song most tailor-made for the vibe of summer festivals, with fragile, guitar-pop verses making way for a vocally acrobatic chorus that seems to literally break his heart as he sings it.

A discerning eye could catch the director Spike Jonze in the corner of the stage with his camera, filming Frank in the sort of glitchy, home-camera type style that so captures his aura: romantic and nostalgic, small but simultaneously large, emotionally fragile yet creatively prodigious. Ocean wore a white t-shirt, the words of which I strained to read from the middle of the morass. Of course, by the end of the night, the shirt had gone viral on the internet. Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic, it read, when you can just be quiet?

Ocean ended his set, and the festivals first night, with Nikes, the lead single from Blonde; the song is one of the best tracks on an album with virtually no bad ones, a shapeshifting, five-minute display of his falsetto, his chipmunk voice, his raps, and his poetry. When it ended and the lights went dark, fans werent sure if hed come out for an encore. They stood in place, some jockeying for a better view should he return to the stage. But after a little while they began to slowly disperse and make way to the bridge connecting Randalls Island and Manhattan. It was after 11pm, not terribly late for this crowd, but Frank had put us all in a stupor.

Mitski – The Pavilion

The rocker Mitski wasnt one of the weekends headliners, but I was thrilled to catch her on the side stage on day two, belting out confessional anthems with the force and self-possession of a seasoned veteran. The Japanese American singer-songwriter, just 26, burst on to the scene last year when her single Your Best American Girl, off the record Puberty 2, became a massive critical success. Her first appearance at Panorama, and the way she so formidably commanded the stage with just her voice and guitar, was an indication that well be seeing much more of her.

Mitski. Photograph: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Panorama

Tame Impala Panorama Stage

Headlining Panoramas second night was the Australian band Tame Impala, headed by Kevin Parker. The set was perhaps the most festival-y of the festival in stark contrast to Solange and Oceans more muted offerings beginning with a display of phosphorescent swirls on the three LCD screens before they launched into the lead single from their 2015 record Currents, Let It Happen. It was the most palpably electric Panorama felt all weekend.

The lights continued throughout the set, the neon visuals a perfect companion to a danceable rock record, or a rock-able dance record. The band also gave longtime fans a treat by playing the song Sundown Syndrome, the bands earliest single, preceding their debut record by a year; then, having toured behind the Currents album for two years, they played Love/Paranoia, one of the albums best tracks, for the first time live.

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Solange Knowles was reportedly pelted with limes by white people at a Kraftwerk gig for being an outsider. I feel white micro-aggressions like that every day, says publicist Michelle Kambasha

In 2013, the good people at US-based independent label Secretly Group hired me as a fresh-faced, straight-out-of-the-Midlands graduate.

Three years later, my face is less fresh as I find myself holed up in sweaty east London pub-cum-venue most nights, waiting for bands to start, often 15 minutes after their agreed set time. In those 15 minutes, the smell of cheap alcohol becomes neutralised and I chat to the journalists Ive invited along, trying to be as friendly as possible in the hope that my charm will sway them into giving my band a four-star review that doesnt feature any complaints about technical difficulties.

In the few short minutes before the band comes on, the stage lights illuminate the crowd. Its only then I become aware that I am a black woman in an overwhelmingly white place. Im probably the only black woman here, Ill think, and suddenly the whole place feels like an anxiety dream in which I turn up to work completely naked and call my boss Mum.

This feeling of outsiderness is something Solange Knowles recently experienced at a Kraftwerk gig, along with her black husband, black child and childs friend. She claims she was targeted by a group of four white women who shouted at her to sit down, before they threw half-eaten limes at her. In response to this incident, Knowles wrote an essay about isolation, describing the experience of being a person of colour in predominately white spaces.

Ive never been pelted with limes but during my time in the music industry Ive felt the white micro-aggressions that speak far louder than words. Never misjudge my intuition in knowing that when a white, east London Corbynista with a serious case of vocal fry asks me a question like: Whys there no toilet roll? what that actually means is: I take it you work here because youre black? Or when Im asked: Why are you at this [insert any indie band] show? and I explain that its because I do their press, I know what theyre really asking is: Why dont you do press for someone black, because youre black? It is as if my race inherently makes me underqualified.

Its not like I didnt know what I was getting into. My love for alternative music started as teenager in the midst of an identity crises. As one of few black people in my school, and as a black girl who read alternative music magazines but never saw any black girls in them, I found solace in reading the works of black writers who wrote about the music I loved.

One was Britt Julious. While all of her writing is phenomenal, one article in particular resonated with me when I became a music publicist. Following an incident in which she was asked Whats a black girl doing here? at in indiepop show, it led to a deeper exploration of what it means to be black and breaching the boundaries. This birthed Blackfork her annual headcount of black people she sees at Pitchfork festival, Chicago.

A friend and I did a similar thing at NOS Primavera Sound this year (we counted seven to 12 black people, including myself, across two days). The annual count has nothing to do with the festival itself, Julious says. I do not fault Pitchfork for creating the audience that it does. Rather, this was about what it means to be black and whether or not I was fitting in.

How then do I forge my sense of belonging and find a way to become indispensable in a white world that seeks to dispose non-white people for its survival without losing who I am? How to own my black woman-ness, without feeling alone or defeated? What does my existence mean, right now, at this indie show with a crowd thats 95% white? My parents never shied away from the difficulties they faced in the corporate world: for them, speaking their mind was an aggression, whereas for white people it was just an opinion. Silence and subservience wont help me because the issue is my mere occupation in their space in the world of media and arts. So Ill continue to reply to micro-aggressions with my very own (Why dont you ask someone that works here? normally works). Ill continue to go to alternative shows right until the Tories shut every single venue down.

Ill make no apologies for who I am, and for being where Im meant to be. Stood in a sweaty east London pub-cum-venue, waiting 15 minutes for a band to start.

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