TAKE A SEAT
Being a Black American has been a challenging experience from the moment our great relatives set foot on this beautiful land. Although we have contributed in major ways, there is always that sting of the past lurking behind every pat down, every police shooting and every acquittal. Some would call it genetic PTSD; the pain of suffering of our community triggers the hopelessness, fear and agony of our ancestors. The complicated thing about being Black in America is living a fluid existence while consciously dodging and at times humorously embracing certain stereotypes. We just want to live. We want to be vulnerable, angry, proud, nonchalant and scared. Solange knows this feeling too well, and offered us listeners “A Seat at the Table”, where she created a space just for us to explore the many facets that makes us…us.
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
The intro to this masterpiece features Solange singing a chorus three times about us falling in our ways, crumbling, being able to sleep at night, but eventually being able to wake up and rise. The final two times she sings the chorus, she replaces “fall” with “walk” and changes the message. We aren’t a perfect people. We will fall repeatedly and make mistakes. The beauty of this process is even though we have fallen repeatedly, we learn to walk and rise. It’s a very encouraging and honest introduction to what she is about to serve to us.
I’m gonna look for my glory/yeah/I’ll be back real soon
The youth and wiser generations often question the state of the world that we live in. We all wonder about the mark that we will leave on the world, and how we can make a change that is lasting and noble. In this song, we are surrounded by Solange’s gentle vocals in a space where we can lament on the world that we see reflected back to us on the media outlets. It’s exhausting. But underneath the weariness, there’s the spark that refuses to allow us to just lie down and die.
CRANES IN THE SKY
Well it’s like cranes in the sky/sometimes I don’t want to feel those metal clouds
I don’t want to always be conscious. Being the first to deliver news to my loved ones about another injustice makes me feel like the constant bearer of bad news. Sometimes, life appears to be simpler when we don’t allow ourselves to think deeper. Here, Solange confesses her distraction tactics. She drinks, smokes, shops, makes love and travels “70 states” to get away. Because the more aware she is, the higher she excels in enlightenment, the more she realizes that the fluffy clouds that we look up at with admiration are actually made of metal. Akin to holding onto childhood with the belief of magic, Solange decides to stay grounded. But it doesn’t work.
MAD Feat. Lil Wayne
I ran into this girl, I said/”I’m tired of explaining/Man this shit is draining/But I’m really not allowed to be mad”/
Solange collaborates with Lil’ Wayne in the midst of his very public battle with former mentor, Bird Man. This song features a conversation between a more docile female voice and Solange. The female questions why Solange is always so angry and “talkin shit.” Haven’t we all been there when another catastrophe appears on the television and you go on an unchecked verbal tirade? It’s as if your emotions are more offensive than the dead body lying uncovered in the middle of the street. Lil Wayne and Solange say that it’s okay to be mad.
DON’T YOU WAIT
I don’t want to bite the hand that’ll show me the other side, no/but I didn’t want to build the land that has fed you your whole life, no/
With a voice that’s less soothing and more accusing, Solange sings about being a part of something that she felt like she didn’t have control over. I’d say that this has to do with the music industry. The industry gave her an outlet for her voice to be heard, but there were stipulations. Now she sings that although she doesn’t want to “bite the hand that will show her the other side” she’s not willing to compromise anymore. She sings that they made her bed and dealt with it when the lights were out. She’s freeing herself and she may lose friends, partners but she doesn’t want to wait. And she doesn’t want them to wait for her to “come to her senses.”
DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR
Don’t touch my hair/when it’s the feelings that I wear/don’t touch my soul/when it’s the rhythm I know/
Something about the way that Black people’s hair can be sculpted and transformed inspires admiration. Whether it is defying gravity in an afro, displaying neat designs in braids, or exceeding lengths in locs, people who are curious want to reach out and touch. It doesn’t seem offensive to those who view hair as “just hair.” But Solange explains that it is far more than just hair. It’s our crown, our souls, our roots. And just like roots, it absorbs; we have to make sure that we control what our soul absorbs.
Where Do We Go
This used to be home/this used to be what we know/what used to belong/now good & gone
When you’re in your own country and see the direction that it is going in, the questions are: what are the other options? Where do we go? She speaks of a period of conquering and dividing, which alludes to our community. When Black people encouraged group economics, although still oppressed, there were pockets of great Black entrepreneurship. The sense of community is slowly fading as time goes on. Music, culture, hair styles, etc. are seen on television and it looks askew from the original. The struggle is to find a new place to find our voice and a safe place.
All my niggas let the whole world know/play this song and sing it on your terms/for us, this shit is for us
What can I say that Solange didn’t fully cover in this entire song? With a nod to the early 2000’s clothing brand, FUBU (For Us By Us) this song is made for Black people to play loudly. With that in mind, this song will make some people uncomfortable in its rebellion because profanity is supposed to be viewed as something vulgar and to be whispered so no one will be offended. That’s not what Solange is aiming for with her liberal usage of “nigga” and “shit”. She gives scenarios of when Black people can’t just be themselves without being thought of as suspicious. This song is an ode to those who are tired of “code switching” and playing down their Blackness for other’s comfort. It’s a celebration. Anticipating that some people will try to reduce the importance of the song because of her use of nigga, Solange gives a pat on the back. “Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along/just be glad you got the whole wide world/ this us.” Well Damn.
BORDERLINE (AN ODE TO SELF-CARE)
Baby, it’s war outside these walls/baby, it’s war outside theses doors/A safe place tonight/Let’s play it safe tonight
I’m about to admit to some really soft shit, but I don’t care: I cried multiple times the first run-through of this song. I played it three times in a row and every time, my emotions got stronger. This song is what my soul needed and I didn’t even know it. With all there is to fight for, to be angry about, to be terrified of, I never gave myself a moment to step away. With all the love and concern that we have for our community, it is very important to hug and kiss those close to you. It is important to smile and enjoy your life. Self-care is critical for our community. Solange’s delivery, coupled with the melody encourages listeners to take a deep breath and just be in the moment. You’re no good to any of us if you’re on the verge of giving up. Break it up with some simple pleasures.
JUNIE Feat. Andre 3000
What you gonna do /when they saw your moves and practiced them daily?/protect your neck, or give invitations?
And after you’ve taken some self-care, it’s about coming back out swinging, fully energized. And once you get back in the ring and you see that your own moves are being used against you, do you still attempt to beat them or do you join them?
DON’T WISH ME WELL
Pour ashes where they claimed my name/they say I changed/But a pity if I stayed the same
This is a insider reflection on our own community. A touch on the harsh reality that at times there is a need to leave loved ones behind who are not willing to outgrow certain mindsets. Solange sings about going all the way, but leaving the lights on for those she leaves behind. There is no love lost, but there is a need to be true to yourself.
The streets say you’re a king/The world says you’re a failure/
This is a song to the portion of our community whose focus is on the right now. Young man who wants to be the best, and is warned by his mother that he will end up like his father. He wants to be flashy with grill in his mouth, diamonds on his wrist and rims on his car. This is for our people who have dreams that are glamorized on the television. The television is their big ticket; all they are waiting on is the scales to tip for their chance.
In between the songs listed above, there are interludes that offer perfect segues to the following track. Master P is a prominent voice who talks about the beginning of No Limit Records. The mindset to stay true to himself and to not sell out is what got him to where he is today. Solange’s dad talks about integrating a school in his youth and having the KKK harass him. Solange’s mother talks about why it is important to be proud of being Black and why she is so passionate about it. All in all, the album is a very Black experience. During an emotional time regarding my community that makes me want to call into work with the “Blackness Blues” on several occasions, I was gifted this album by Solange. It’s a safe space. A vulnerable space . A powerful space. A real space.
No code switching required.
No explanations needed.
Thank you, sister!