Scarcely four minutes into Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 “visual album,” decades-old archival footage shows the young diva-to-be, fresh from winning a singing contest, tilting her head up toward the mic towering over her. “I would like to thank the judges for picking me; my parents, who I love; I love you, Houston,” she concludes, putting a tiny hand to her mouth and blowing a kiss to the crowd.
Over three decades later, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is arguably the biggest pop star in the world, and she’s still blowing kisses to her hometown and her home state—her songs are peppered with references to both. In case there was any doubt, she begins her song “Daddy Lessons” with four simple words: “Texas, Texas, Texas, Texas.” Given that the Lone Star State’s pop culture canon seems to favor country singers slinging guitars, it signals a major shift that in 2018 our most famous brand ambassador doesn’t fit that mold. Beyoncé has been letting the world know that—to use Houston parlance—Texas is triller (truer, realer) than anyone realized.
And where Queen Bey goes, others soon follow. First came her sister Solange. Though she’s a quieter advocate for her birthplace, the Grammy Award–winning singer picks her spots perfectly. At Houston’s Day for Night festival in 2017, she gleefully recounted her local itinerary for the crowd: a stop at Frenchy’s and some time at the Menil, where, earlier that year, she debuted a choreographed work called “Scales.”
Then came the Houston-born rapper Travis Scott, who this summer paid homage to a much-missed local amusement park with his album Astroworld. A few months later, he organized the Astroworld Festival in Houston, which his manager described as a tribute to the city that made him “the man and creative artist he is today.”
And then there’s the popular singer Khalid, who has gone out of his way to boost his adopted hometown of El Paso. Though he only spent a few years in the “915,” his recent Suncity EP is a love letter to the city. On the title track, he croons in his leathery voice: “Llévame a ciudad de sol / Llévame, llévame / Donde dejé mi corazón” (“Take me to the city of sunshine / Take me, take me / Where I leave my heart”).
All four of these Texans have decamped from the state and settled in Los Angeles or New York City. But rather than take that as a slight, Texans can see it in a better light: living in the nation’s two biggest media meccas just means that Beyoncé, Solange, Travis Scott, and Khalid have a bigger platform from which to tell the world about the place they’ll always call home.