I’ll admit that it took a while for the effects of Solange Knowles’ A Seat at the Table to settle in my brain. The music hit me right away; Table’s tunes merged a love for Motown that was all over 2012’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams with a more experimental side of R&B and melted all my troubles away.
“For us, by us” is a strong sentiment that many of us rocked on shirts and jackets back in the day, but as 2016 drew to a close, the weight of a song like “F.U.B.U.” began to creep over my shoulders. Another year marked by Black death was bookended by my family sitting me down to talk about the “divisiveness” of Black Power on social media and how it’s my responsibility alone to make racism palatable to them. “When you feeling all alone, and you can’t even be you up in your home / When you even feeling it from your own” was my exact life at that moment as I cut their argument short.
Walking the familial tightrope as a biracial man is never an easy task, but it pales in comparison to the stress of being a Black woman in America. That stress—and the constant healing efforts that come with it—fuels the majority of A Seat at the Table, particularly “Cranes In The Sky.” “I was working through a lot of challenges at every angle of my life, and a lot of self-doubt, a lot of pity-partying,” Solange told sister Beyoncé during their recent interview in Interview Magazine. “And I think every woman in her twenties has been there—where it feels like no matter what you are doing to fight through the thing that is holding you back, nothing can fill that void.”
The rest comes in the form of interludes from both parents, Matthew and Tina Knowles, and No Limit mastermind Percy “Master P” Miller, who offer their perspectives on Black pride and entrepreneurship. Tina’s takedown of reverse racism and P setting out to make $40 million instead of being given $1 million continue to be reaffirming, so my eyes lit up when, during Beyoncé and Solange’s conversation, the independence of A Seat at the Table came full circle.
When asked why she chose Master P to more or less narrate her album, Solange explained that her father’s struggles as the key to the integration of his Southern middle school translated to a streak of independence that she saw in Master P building No Limit Records up from the dirt of New Orleans. “I wanted a voice throughout the record that represented empowerment and independence, the voice of someone who never gave in, even when it was easy to lose sight of everything that he built, someone invested in black people, invested in our community and our storytelling, in empowering his people.”
I hadn’t realized just how similar their stories were. P’s business acumen led the severely local No Limit Records to the big leagues with a distribution deal through Priority Records, but he held onto the masters that would eventually line New Orleans’ pockets.
Music, movies and a WCW wrestling team later, he charted his own path to money and saw that same driving spirit in Solange when she reached out to him about narrating A Seat at the Table, according to an interview with Complex. “To see a strong black woman just keep going...I'm a fan of that. And not dependent on nobody else—she don't even depend on Beyoncé or nobody. She's in the studio on her own, making her music. Going to all these different cities and traveling to all these different places. [You gotta] salute it.”
Solange may not be as big a star as her sister, but she’s grown her own crop in New Orleans. She formed her own imprint, Saint Records, off of the strength of her fan base, has been a writer to the stars since she was a teenager, and even dabbles in production. That drive is exhausting and hard to maintain, but it got Q-Tip, Kelela, Raphael Saddiq and Lil Wayne on board and earned Solange her first No. 1 album for her troubles.
The drive that both Solange and Master P showed hit me as I finished reading the interview, and I was reminded of why it’s important to not let anyone dictate your life. All of a sudden, I was back on that couch listening to two old white men determine the worth of my struggles. Our experiences as Black people aren’t anyone’s to change and neither is our hair or our skin. It was then that I realized the true healing power that Black independence gave to A Seat at the Table.
We all need a reminder every once in a while.
By CineMasai. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram