This year has brought us two albums on being black in America by two Knowles women, Beyoncé and Solange. If you were thinking that Solange would follow her big sister’s musical lead, you would be surprised, but you wouldn’t be disappointed.
Whereas Queen Bey sang about being unapologetically black and proud with a visual album spanning many genres, Solange sheds light on what it is like to be black and the hardships that are present within the community through a more soulful and at times funky sound. A Seat at the Table is Solange’s journey to self-empowerment and an album that allows others to share their lived experiences and find empowerment for themselves.
The album’s opening track, ‘Rise,’ was written four years ago and speaks about being true to oneself in times of accomplishment and failure, something that Solange has done throughout her career. She is entirely her own artist, not trying to align herself to her sister, but creating her own sound and style.
‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ is Solange’s declaration that she will not limit her identity to appease others and also speaks about the problematic action of patting black women’s hair, emphasising their ‘otherness’ in more than just their hair texture but their existence.
‘Mad,’ featuring Lil Wayne, breaks down the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype that many face when airing their frustrations towards the injustice and mistreatment of black people in America. In the hook, “I ran into this girl, she said ‘Why you always blaming? /’Why you can’t just face it,” Solange is retelling the common response in which black men and women are expected to accept the inequality and mistreatment that their community faces, justifiably arguing that they have every right to be mad. Lil Wayne also touches on his own personal issues, like his time spent in prison, his attempted suicide at only twelve years old, and problems with other members of his Young Money music label.
Solange and Beyoncé grew up in a family that is proud of their cultural identity, which is ever-present in their respective albums. A Seat at the Table is emotional, soulful, and personal. The album is raw in its telling of black identity in white spaces and in a country that finds difficulty in discussing its racist past and present. Solange take on the discourse of black identity is distinguished and much needed in 2016.