We were so hopeful of what 2020 would bring. Just saying the year aloud, in a Barbara Walters-esque way or not, sounded a new and promising year for all of us. But a couple of months into 2020, we realized that the year was giving us a lot more than we needed or ever asked for. And now reflecting a year later, that year was definitely not the F. Scott Fitzgerald fantasy we hoped to have. Is it possible that our wish for a roaring twenties….was too loud?
While it was an awful year, however, music was there to get us through it all. Specifically, the iconic music moments delivered by Black women. Beyoncé hopped on the remix to Megan Thee Stallion’s hit song, “Savage,” to create the “Savage Remix.” Nicki Minaj scored her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with her “Say So” remix with Doja Cat. We got Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s jaw-dropping, conservative meltdown-causing video to “WAP,” beautiful vocals and visuals from the comfort of ChloexHalle’s tennis court, and if Megan’s musical milestones weren’t enough, her debut album, “Good News,” debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart.
In music or any field for that matter, Black women consistently led the pack in content. Their artistry is something you can’t deny, and 2020 proved that! As the creative streak of last year would follow artists into the new year, Black female artists have found an aesthetic to channel their creativity into the roaring twenties. The flapper, Gatsby-esque era of prosperity and good vibes that we so desperately wanted to start off with was, of course, resurrected by the work of Black women.
We were promised our very own 21st-century roaring 20s, and Black women surely delivered.
Thinking back to my high school history days, the Harlem Renaissance and the women’s suffragette movement is what always comes to mind. And even though the leaps and bounds of women’s progress didn’t include Black women and many beloved suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had no intention of helping them, the Harlem Renaissance provided a prosperous, rich self haven for Black women in the world of arts and culture. Now a century later, the era still remains a source of inspiration for pop culture.
Flo Milli had a great 2020 and started off 2021 with that same energy. She released a song and video to a new single, “Roaring 20s,” produced by Kenny Beats, and samples the song “If I Were a Rich Man” from the 1971 film, Fiddler on the Roof. The video looks like it came straight out of the 20s, with a clear nod to the icon Josephine Baker. She shared a video on Twitter ahead of the video drop with the caption, “Flosephine Baker.” With choreography done by Sean Bankhead, currently known for crafting the dance in Cardi B’s “Up,” Flo Milli is living her flapper fantasy with a bunch of Black women decked in diamonds and fur by her side.
One of the most familiar aspects of Flo Milli’s music is the confidence in every lyric. Her breakout song, “Beef FloMix” is more than two minutes of her telling you that you aren’t on her level.
“I do what I please and you do what I ask, He love my confidence and that’s what you lack.”
Right there. In the first verse. So using the theme of the roaring twenties through the lens of a Black woman to show what it means to be a woman, but explain the duality of the life she would live if she was a rich man.
“One of the most familiar symbols of the Roaring Twenties was the birth of the new independent woman, known in those years as a flapper. A flapper is a young woman; unbothered by conventional standards of behavior. In addition to being more sexually free than previous generations, the women of the Roaring Twenties had the bobbed hair, the short skirts, the drankin’, the smokin’, looks, and participated in activities that were deemed “unladylike.” My lyrics, my style, and my lifestyle all resonate with that freedom and I AM the Roaring Twenties.”
Bree Runway is the moment, and her collab with the legendary Missy Elliott makes that very clear. The single, “ATM,” is from her debut mixtape, “2000AND4EVA.” Bree and Missy step into their bags and use men as ATM machines in the music video. Just like Flo Milli’s video, all of Bree’s dancers are Black women in sparkly, crystal rhinestone outfits in this Moulin Rouge-inspired set.
The reason that Baker’s influence is so clear in videos like these is because of how much she did during that era. She became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture and perform with an integrated cast at a concert hall. She was an entertainer and an artist as well as an activist for equality in America. Baker is even credited with popularizing a similar hairstyle with her signature look of dramatically slicking down her hair to her face. It really is no surprise that the impact of a pioneer will be resurrected long after them.
Megan Thee Stallion
Before Megan Thee Stallion joined Cardi B for a first-time performance of “WAP,” Megan performed a medley of “Body” and “Savage” in another roaring 20s themed set. She wore a giant feather headdress and robe only to reveal a sequin showgirl bodysuit underneath before she did some choreography.
Her performance even had a tap dance break inspired by the “Jumpin’ Jive” dance sequence performed by the Nicolas Brothers in the 1943 film Stormy Weather. The iconic moves of Fayard and Harold Nicholas jumping down the stairs into a split were recreated by dancers Brittany Parks and Ashley Seldon. The one-take dance number was also the inspiration for Harry Styles’ “Treat People With Kindness” video.
We may not have started 2020 with a gilded and gleaming time, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! The post-pandemic world going forward looks promising no matter what decade you choose to fall back on.