Queen Bey is known for her ability to surprise her fanbase despite being one of the most influential and well-known artists of her time. It happened again when the release of Beyoncé's Making The Gift documentary was announced on Sunday, September 15, the day before it aired. That's right, like she did with her self-titled album, The Carters' Everything Is Love, and her Homecoming Netflix special, she pulled off the last-minute surprise.
The documentary will premiere on ABC, or "ABeyC," per the network, on Monday, September 16 at 10 p.m. ET following the premiere of Dancing With The Stars. Two months after the July 19 premiere of the new live-action version of The Lion King, the documentary takes viewers behind the scenes of Beyoncé's album Lion King: The Gift, which released on the same day. An ode to the film's roots, it combines the sounds and talents of "some of the most important African artists of the day with well-known American talent to both re-interpret the powerful story and themes of the iconic film and bring the authentic sounds of Africa to a global audience," per ABC's official press release.
The network calls the film Beyoncé's love letter to Africa, as it documents interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the album's production, including track collaboration, adventures throughout various countries including Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa, music video shoots, new relationships, and more. "Experience the process," the 30-second trailer teases. "Every track." And there are a lot of them.
Tapping out at 54 minutes, per Spotify, the album features a whopping 27-song roster including iconic artists like JAY-Z, Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Jessie Reyez, and more, not to mention the multiple rising African artists featured on the record. Her Lion King cast mates James Earl Jones and Seth Rogen also appear on the album.
Throughout her travels across the continent, she sought artistic and personal inspiration, collecting nuggets she could return home with and turn into something more. Why? Because she felt the recognition was deserved, and it serves her larger goal of bringing the sounds of Africa to the mainstream. Nigerian artists Alade, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Tekno, Mr. Eazi, and Wizkid are among the many artists she worked with, and according to a multi-interview article published by Rolling Stone, they were all elated at the opportunity.
"There have been samples [of African music in American pop] here and there, things like Drake and Wizkid collaborating [on 'One Dance’],” Guilty Beatz, a Ghanian producer who worked on The Gift told Rolling Stone. “But it’s just been little things. Now that Beyoncé released a whole album, this will open the gateway."
Alade, another Nigerian artist, expressed similar feelings, that the album is "yet another awakening, another step in the right direction," that there are "advantages on both sides, for the U.S. and for Africa ... the idea," she said, "is to close the gap."
The network says the documentary's narrative is "steeped in love and appreciation" and it "highlights the beauty of the people and the vibrant sounds of a pulsating continent." And unlike The Lion King, as realistic as the animation may seem, Beyoncé's footage is the real deal.