can you even imagine a world without beyoncé? It's a bleak prospect that would've been reality were it not for Mathew Knowles—yes, that's one "T," he makes sure to remind us.
Father and former manager to world-renowned superstar Bey and Grammy-winning chanteuse Solange, Knowles is largely known as the man behind the music—beginning, of course, with Destiny's Child—a role he'll soon publicly dissect in two forthcoming projects: Survivor: The Destiny's Child Musical, set for a 2020 Houston premiere, and his fourth book, Destiny's Child: The Untold Story, debuting later this year.
The former, currently in the early stages of development, is a joint venture with theater industry vet and Houston native Je'Caryous Johnson, who's also behind Redemption of a Dogg, the original musical based on Snoop Dogg's life and music.
Survivor will chronicle the Destiny's Child era from Knowles's perspective, he says, covering about 30 years of material. The co-creators promise a candid, transparent look at the pioneering girl group's journey, from humble Houston inception to worldwide superstardom—and behind-the-scenes consequences. "I want to pull back the curtain," Knowles said in a press release last month announcing the project. "I feel it's time to give the world an opportunity to hear, see, and feel the victories and failures that I've had as a husband, father, and manager who risked everything in pursuit of fulfilling dreams—those of mine and others."
That's not all Knowles is up to, either. This fall, he'll begin a visiting professorship at Prairie View A&M, where he'll co-teach a course on sports entertainment and event marketing in the College of Business. The upcoming semester will mark Knowles's 11th year in a classroom, with past guest-teaching and lecturing gigs at institutions like Cornell, Rice, Texas Southern, and his own alma mater, Fisk University.
Knowles, who holds a PhD and regularly lectures on African-American success in the corporate world, has a special affinity for historically black colleges and universities. That theme permeated Beyoncé's childhood, Knowles says, offering his daughter's recent Netflix smash-hit, Homecoming—which documents her journey to the historic 2018 Coachella headlining set that celebrated HBCUs—as proof.
Recently, Houstonia caught up with Knowles about all that and more.
Tell us about your new role at Prairie View.
"I'm excited because there's something very special about that school. When I went up there the first time—I hadn't been in 20, 30 years—I was walking to an administrative building and the students were like, 'Good morning! Good morning!' I'm like, okay, they know who I am; that's why they're so polite. I went the second time and it was the same thing: 'Good afternoon!' I had one of my staff with me, and they were saying good afternoon to him. I said, you know what, it's the culture of this university. These students are really different, in a positive way."
What will the class entail?
"Dr. Rick Baldwin will be lecturing on sports, we'll be sharing on events, and I'll be lecturing on entertainment marketing. It's going to be a unique experience for the students. First and foremost, regardless of the topic of the class, I teach critical thinking. He or she who understands critical thinking will have the best outcome. We'll take them out of the classroom; I'm going to bring them to Houston. I want them to see the Music World Entertainment office environment, and I'll look to bring on-board two of my best students as interns. I'll also bring in a couple guest speakers."
Can you reflect on how the music industry has changed over your 25-year career?
"The music industry, like others, has evolved—it's gone from the eight-track to the cassette to the CD to digital downloads to streaming. But with each evolution, fundamentally, the approach is the same. We consume more music than ever before—we just don't want to pay for it the way we used to. That's why streaming has become such an important tool ... we finally figured it out. The ego of the record labels, they finally let that go and listened to the consumer. And it will evolve again. Seven years ago I predicted streaming would be next, and I don't know if I was lucky or smart, but I was right. I'm predicting six or seven years from now there will be mergers of social media and record labels. We'll tie social media, streaming music, and entertainment all into one bow and package."
Do you think Destiny's Child could exist and enjoy the same level of success in today's drastically changed media landscape?
"In the year 2000, Destiny's Child—and all other major artists—had on their websites this thing called a chatroom. What's different about a chatroom and social media? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. I'd be up with my team at 1, 2, 3 in the morning, chatting with people. This is nothing new; we think this is new. We've been doing this."
How were things different back then, though?
"In the whole Destiny's Child evolution, radio played a different role—if you didn't have radio, you couldn't succeed at all. It was like, zero chance. That's changed. You can have tremendous success without terrestrial radio. That still plays a role, but its role has diminished a lot over the years. There was no streaming in the Destiny's Child era; you had brick-and-mortar stores and you could build these relationships, and you got paid more. But the fundamental things like touring, having a great song, being prepared as an artist, and knowing how to entertain and perform—those fundamental things have not changed whatsoever."
Let's talk about this musical. What should fans expect?
"It's from my perspective—that's the first thing. There's no one closer to it than the artists and myself. They were young, so a lot of it they didn't even understand. The second thing: It will take all of us through a journey, and it's a journey that most people really don't know about Destiny's Child. Additionally, the very first Destiny's Child record with Kelly and Beyoncé has never been released, and I will release that album this year here at Music World."
In a way, then, Destiny's Child is alive and well.
"There's not two days that ever pass that I don't have to do Destiny's Child business. I still officially manage Destiny's Child. I still have to license songs; I, with Sony, still have to communicate every other day with businesses around the world. I think a lot of people don't understand how it works, which is why I love teaching about music and entertainment."
We loved seeing them reunite for Beyoncé's Coachella set last year.
"You're going to be the first person to write this: Destiny's Child has not broken up. Destiny's Child retired. When you break up, it signifies that there was drama and challenges; but when you retire, it signifies that it was strategic, and you still have relationships with the people you worked with. Kelly, Michelle, and Beyoncé are best friends. They didn't break up."
We have to ask: When the time comes for this musical, how are you ever possibly going to cast Beyoncé?
"That's a good question. I won't be in the process of casting, but that's going to be a fun thing to see, to document. That's a documentary by itself: The Casting of Beyoncé. You just gave me an idea, Abby."