It’s been a few days now and I have literally been marinating on Solange’s ‘A Seat At The Table’. At first I was a little hesitant because although I was a fan of Solange I wasn’t too much of a supporter of her last project—‘True’ EP released just 3 years ago. Maybe I wasn’t ready to understand what she was doing or it just went above my head.
So now I’m back, it’s a beautiful day the skies are wide open, perfect shade of blue, the sun is glistening perfectly above the high rises that tower over me, my melanin is popping, the sent of coconut oil in my locks enhance the moment I’m about to embark on.
Headphones in and she opens with ‘Rise’; the subtle tones of her voice against the slight brushes of drums, she sings “fall in your ways so you can’t crumble, fall in you ways so you can sleep at night fall in you ways so you can wake up and rise.” I had this on repeat for at least thirty minutes. It grips your soul to the point where you get lost in the harmonies, you get lost in the context of what she’s saying, sonically fusing your thoughts in one bubble of unapologetic freedom— of allowing yourself to be ok with giving yourself more than one chance to be great. This mantra should be echoed in every corner of the world every morning to remind you of just how strong you are and what you are capable of. Right then I discovered that Solange is a woman who has found herself and is content with who she is artistically, who she is as an activist and mother.
“This album was made to heal and encourage Black people, not explain to white people why Black people need healing and encouragement.”
I laid there receiving my healing listening to ‘Cranes In The Sky’. It was like hearing my own voice vicariously through Solange and she was telling my story melodically coated in cloudy neo-soul bounce and purple haze. I too was escaping when she said “I tried to drink it away…” I believe this song is the antidote to that overwhelming feeling that voids your need to be a floating butterfly energised in beauty and excellence on your way to the land of milk and honey.
Solange purposely per the current times and personal experiences balances her album on black people, black culture and black frustrations. And on ‘Dad was Mad’ you hear the depth of pain, suffering and exclusion faced by her father Mathew Knowles when he talks about his first experience of integration in schools as a child in the South. As he speaks above sharp organ keys you are witnessing first hand experience of racism at its prime. This smoothly fuses into ‘Mad’ where she sends a disclaimer to white listeners saying “don’t be mad you can’t sing along, be glad you got the whole wide world.” So bold she penetrates on so many things with those four bars. And as Black twitter would say if you’re woke you wouldn’t need an explanation. Solange highlights our daily struggles of striving to be great despite the perception of our people and culture. Don’t be mad when we celebrate us freely and without fault because from what we can see you are comfortable with appropriating our culture but aren’t confident to show respect to us for it; “you get so much from us, then forget us.” — ‘F.U.B.U’
On ‘Tina Taught Me’, you hear the declaration “that there is so much beauty in being black.” Take that in for a second. You are and should be free from oppression and limitations of expressing your culture. You are a beautiful entity and it should be celebrated without quarrel. The interpretation of our black affirmation often comes across as negative and harsh but on ‘ASATT’ Solange refuses to tone down her blackness and neither will I anymore after this. Lil Wayne’s contribution to ‘Mad’ is one of his best verses to date; “You got a right to be mad, but when you carry it alone you find it only getting in the way.”
Master P’s narration by far is worthy to stand alone as a self-help manual to being a successful black man. His interludes are like sermons on a Sunday morning. On The Chosen Ones he makes a very powerful statement “We came here as slaves, but we going out as royalty.” Master P made it his mission to project positive affirmation of the black entrepreneur via understanding his worth and not settling. Building an empire like No Limit stands strong on ‘F.U.B.U’. This is for us by us. But “Don’t clip my wings before I learn to fly, I didn’t come back down to Earth to die.” This explicits firmly the possibilities that lay ahead of us daily but what I’m asking is that you please treat us with dignity and respect. Same instructive sentiments lead to ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ giving me robust confidence in my response for every time I’m asked if they can touch my hair or every time they try to convince me that Kim Kardashian invented “box braids.” Songs like ‘Borderline (An Ode To Self-Care)’ reel you in to understanding your light and most definitely ‘Don’t let anybody steal your magic’.
Solange very powerfully and boldly spreads Afrocentricity all through the album whether through collaboration with Sampha and Blood Orange or to the visuals she so delightful gifted us with beauty and grace recreating Lynette Yiadom-Boakye oil painting. The sequencing of the album works perfectly with Solange’s fusion of soul funk and indie rock and is reminiscent of James Brown ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ to Nina Simone’s ‘Young Gifted and Black’.
‘ASATT’ is the blueprint for people of colour and their experiences not only this past few years where injustice has been so prevalent but also centres around the experiences of black women standing up and fighting for the lives of black men. Solange speaks bravely on this when she talks about her son.
Solange is basking in her moment even when hesitant with her songwriting skills “And I think that, in the past, I might have been a bit more reluctant in my songwriting to be so clear in the narrative” her direct inspiration from Claudia Rankines Citizen – An America Lyric inspired Solange to find her voice in speaking passionately and distinctively about incidents she has been experiencing. Throughout the whole album you hear a warm inviting feeling like when you visit your grandmothers house for Sunday dinner, the smell of soul food roaming the air, the sounds of Solange in the background provoking powerful conversation impacting the broken and opening the eyes of the ignorant. This comes at a time when people of colour are most vulnerable yet united.
‘A Seat At The Table’ is a spoken word album with illuminating sounds in velvet wrapped straight-to-the-point political statements. Delicate sounds weaving through melodic horns and sweet harmonies; this is Harlem nights at the poetry cafe, this anger, this is light this is socially conscious, this is Lemonade with the bits in, this is beauty exhaled, this is black lives matter, this is don’t come for me, this pain and suffering. This is freedom.
I walked away after listening to this empowered. Thank you Solo. You the real MVP.