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Beyoncé fans celebrate ‘Cowboy Carter,’ Black country music at Nashville listening party

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, chats with other guests during a rooftop listening party for Beyoncé's new album "Cowboy Carter."

Two fans threw an epic listening party in downtown Nashville to celebrate the release of Beyoncé’s eighth studio album “Cowboy Carter,” and fans gathered in their best Western wear to celebrate their Blackness, Beyoncé and country music.

DeDe Neahn West, 25, and Aaron Bell, 30 — who was also the official DJ of the night as DJ A.B. Eastwood — put together the event called “Kinfolk.” The shindig was held at the Acme Feed & Seed bar on Lower Broadway and took place the same night Beyoncé dropped the new project. The party’s name, location and timing all held significance.

“I just thought that having an event like this would be a big step in the right direction of shining a light on those other artists, on country music, on Nashville, on Broadway, on honky tonks, on [Black] history and the part that we play in country music,” says West, who was born and raised in Nashville.

Bell spoke to why it was so important.

“Being in Nashville we deal with this divide of country and what actually Nashville is,” Bell says. “Obviously, country music exists here, but there’s a beautiful and vibrant Black scene being, hip-hop, rap, queer — everything.”

‘Kinfolk’

As far as the name of the night, West says, “really this whole event is community.”

“Kinfolk is not always blood,” she says. “It’s the people who ride by you, who have your back … so I call it ‘Kinfolk’ because that’s the goal at the night. It’s to create the community to bring everybody in the same room to support one another.”

Fans, predominantly Black, and the who’s who of Nashville certainly turned out to hear Beyoncé’s album played in full and dance the night away with a sense of pride.

Country music singers Reyna Roberts and Brittany Spencer, who are both featured on Beyoncé’s track “Blackbiird,” were among those who attended. The two ladies shared a special moment with guests onstage when the song played.

Other notable guests included Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones, Holly G. — the founder of Black Opry, a home and touring revue for Black musicians in country music — as well as some of those artists like the duo The Kentucky Gentleman.

“The energy is really fun. It’s really Black. It’s really safe,” Bell says. “I think everybody felt (Beyoncé’s) sentiments when she felt like she didn’t feel welcomed here. And we knew as Black Nashville that wasn’t the case.”

Beyoncé said her new album was “born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed …and it was very clear that I wasn’t.”

Like Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter,” the night was all about celebrating country music’s Black roots, being free and boxing out of the ill-perceived status quo.

Alex Lockridge-Davis dances while listening to music during a rooftop listening party for Beyoncé's new album "Cowboy Carter."

‘This album is for me’

Beyoncé fans like Keytoya Brooks, 26, echoed these sentiments before singing the night away.

“As a small town, country girl born and raised in the country, this (album) is for me,” she says. “It is amazing to see this many Black people just congregate on Broadway — the place that when you think of, you think of white people. … To see Black people really have a place and a space and a genre that we’re so impactful in is super, super special.”

Taylor Luckey, left, and Keytoya Brooks, right, listen to music during a rooftop listening party for Beyoncé's new album "Cowboy Carter."

Sheldon Thomas, 23, says he came out to hear the album, to support his friend West and because of the bigger picture.

“It’s our culture. I’m born and raised in East Nashville. And I think the culture and the lexicon of what Black people have done for country music, because we made this genre, it’s not really like a reclaiming, it’s more just like ownership,” he says. “This is history really, because Nashville really hasn’t seen this many Black bodies, especially here on Broadway, which is predominantly known as very white and gentrified.”

Guests listen to the first track off the album during a rooftop listening party for Beyoncé's new album "Cowboy Carter."

Taylor Luckey, 26, made it clear this album hit home for fans like her.

“Being in Nashville, it’s obviously mostly white, and knowing that Beyoncé is making her mark on Nashville I feel more comfortable to really be a country girl and be OK with it,” she says. “To see so many of us (Black people) out and like showing our cowboy boots and our hats, it feels good. It’s like a sense of community now.”

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