The evolution of Solange Knowles continues with the debut of her latest album “A Seat at The Table”. The singer tapped into some neo-soul (with guidance from RNB legend Raphael Saadiq) to deliver a conceptual mediation on the life of a black woman in America. Though only out for a short time now, the album has garnered well-deserved praise in its contribution to the neo-civil rights movement.
“A Seat at the Table” comes at a time when, once again, the lives of African Americans are up for debate. Solange not one to silence herself, delivers a masterpiece that not only calls out the hypocrisies of living in America but also understanding that its effects have led her and us to give into unhealthy behavior. The smooth sounds lead you on a journey of the mind and soul of a black woman just trying to figure her place in a world that often diminishes her worth. Telling us her story of falling and rising, dancing and crying, to show that none of us are immune to systematic racism and the oppressive mindset it breeds.
Solange sets up her album as a safe space with the introduction track “Rise”, and lyrics like “Walk in your ways, so you won’t crumble. Walk in your ways, so you can sleep at night. Walk in your ways, so you will wake up and rise.” Her smooth voice accompanied by a few piano notes, evoke a warmness that opens your ears to the black girl magic soaked melodies.
In tracks such as “Weary” she shows her wounds, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, she asserts herself, and “F.U.B.U ,where she takes ownership of her black identity; are the few of many on this album that call to our humanity. She uses these tropes to expand upon our fight to be treated like the humans we are, while acknowledging our very human faults. “Cranes in the Sky” a song about self-medicating by means of frivolity, is something we can relate to on an emotional and physical level. Her features by the likes of Lil Wayne, Kelela, Q-Tip, The-Dream, Dev Hynes, and Kelly Rowland feel like necessary additions that produce a well-rounded message of black camaraderie.
FEATURED TRACK: DON'T TOUCH MY HAIR
Master P, who offers tidbits about his journey in the form of a narration, serves as a call to the perseverance and success we gain when understanding our self-worth, despite being vilified for not submitting to the inferior roles we were assigned. She also uses his story to illustrate the importance of representation. “It really impacted me that, out of all the houses on MTV Cribs, this was a black man from New Orleans, and he got this by completely staying firm in his independence,” she said in an interview with Stereogum about his influence on the album and her life.
Most of the album was written and recorded in Louisiana. Solange thought it was important to dive into her mother’s humble beginnings to connect the past with the present. She also does this with interludes featuring her parents Tina Lawson and Matthew Knowles about their experiences of living in their blackness. It is a great reminder of how far we’ve come yet how much needs to be done. Although her harmonious crooning is warm and inviting the heaviness of the subject matter forces you to feel your deep emotions and self-evaluate.
A Seat At The Table is a cry for self-care, self-triumph, and self-awareness in the (re)humanization of black people. What makes this album work is that it doesn’t chastise our faults or belittle our collective intellect, what this album creates is unification through personal thought and experience. How Solange feels and thinks are the same as all of us trying to navigate white spaces, never unscathed yet forced to quiet our trauma. “A Seat at The Table” is unapologetically black, unapologetically Solange, unapologetically us.
Anselme Ndanu is a turtleneck enthusiast who's hooked on making idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines, with ink on bleached and flattend wood pulp, of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and about eight punctuation marks. Her body is in philly but her mind is always lost. Follow her search on instagram. @anselme_en