“A Seat At The Table” is Solange’s third studio album, released four years after “True” (EP) and eight years after Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams — an album that was ahead of its time. It took us on a journey through the sounds swirling around like galaxies in her head. I remember the first time that I heard God Given Name:
“Get me, get me out of this box
I feel so claustrophobic in here
Leave your labels, leave with no vision
Hear my voice and fill with your ears
I’m no soul, girl, equipped with no afro
I’m just my God given name” – Solange
That album solidified her place as a solo artist and storyteller. Solange is known for unfiltered lyricism and harmonies that soar over beats effortlessly.
With a Seat On The Table, I was ready to be pulled back into her world. I waited until I had the time to so sit and listen to the album all the way through, in a room with no distractions because Solange always gives us a full experience. Five seconds after pressing play, I knew that the four year wait was worth it. After listening to the album over three times in less than a day, I can confirm that to be true.
Rise is instantly calming and the perfect way to start an album.
“Fall in your ways, so you can crumble
Fall in your ways, so you can sleep at night
Fall in your ways, so you can wake up and rise”
Sometimes we beat ourselves up for being imperfect but there is beauty in flaws, mistakes and unpolished things. Solange did the photoshoot for “Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams” in what appeared to be a junkyard but there was beauty all around.
It’s about accepting that it’s all a learning process and “fall[ing] in your ways, so you can crumble.” Growing doesn’t stop when you’re an adult but there’s a vulnerability required for you to own up and say “hey, I don’t have it all together but that’s okay.”
When I think about what’s going on in the world, I do get weary, like the name of the next song. I don’t watch the news because it makes me feel helpless. I’m so tired of trying to convince people why I matter. It’s a constant battle with the voices of people justifying another innocent black individual’s death. There’s also a disconnect and detachment that comes with blackness. It’s an out of body experience sometimes when you think about how we’re treated as if we don’t belong in a society that was built on our backs.
“I’m weary of the ways of the world
Be weary of the ways of the world
I’m weary of the ways of the world
I’m gonna look for my body, yeah
I’ll be back real soon”
Cranes in the Sky is like an open journal. They say that your true self is shown when you’re alone. I even found some of own thoughts in this song.
That’s what A Seat At The Table is about. Slumping in your seat. Sitting alone and not being ashamed. Eating food with your elbows on the table and not worrying about being proper. Letting the grease drip down your hands and doing the happy food dance. Having the sauce and crumbs on your lips and not being in a rush to grab the napkin.
A Seat at the Table feels like finally receiving a meal that you’ve been craving all day. It smells like home cooking on a Sunday morning.
In the following track, Interlude: Dad Was Mad, Matthew Knowles recalls a firsthand experience with racism. He tells a story about a KKK attack on him and other black kids and its painful to hear. The fact that people like him, my grandfather and grandmother can clearly remember that time proves that it’s still relevant. “I was lost…between integration…segregation and racism — that was my childhood. I was angry for years” he adds. Mad has a laid-back groove and features Lil Wayne who drops gems about the isolation that comes with fame and how people only come around when they want something. The song reminds me of a quote:
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” – James A. Baldwin
In Don’t You Wait, the sounds are piercing and bold. Solange’s lush vocals create an incredible balance throughout the entire album. It’s a modern feel with a classic template. Everything is in its rightful place. She isn’t trying to follow a trend for radio play and nothing is forced. Solange does whatever she wants and delivers for anyone that wants a seat at the table. It feels like home.
“I’ve always been proud to be black – never wanted to be nothing else..It really saddens me when we’re not allowed to express that pride in being black and that if you do then it’s considered anti-white. No, you’re just pro-black and that’s okay. The two don’t go together.” – Tina Lawson, Interlude: Tina Taught Me
If this album was on Chopped, it would win the championship. Solange is a pro at transforming dishes and giving us good music. Don’t Touch My Hair is something people with afro-textured hair can relate to. “Don’t test my mouth They say the truth is my sound.” It makes a strong statement about preserving your personal space and being in control of your body. This stands out in a world where black bodies are treated like human zoos.
Interlude: This Moment discusses gentrification. Money creates a sense of promise but it also drives people out of homes. It tears down buildings in neighborhoods rich with culture. It causes For Us by Us Talks about the importance of owning your craft and name. This is how black businesses flourish. In the interlude, Master P talks about how he was offered a million dollar deal that would require him to give up the rights to his name. This is not uncommon, considering how black culture has shaped everything from entertainment to sports, music, fashion and social media (the list goes on).
My message to black content creators is to protect your work and do it on your own. You have the talent reach and platform — don’t let someone profit off of what you’ve built because that’s how it has always been. I also advise everyone to visit The National Museum of African American History and Culture because you’ll see just how much our people have done and they didn’t receive any credits or profits.
F.U.B.U.: This album speaks to me but I know that there’s someone out there that won’t get it. That’s fine. By the way, we should really bring FUBU back. I remember when it became the label that people called wack and eventually stopped wearing. Why is that? Oh, you know why.
It also talks about how we’ve contributed so much and received no credit so we deserve to have some things for us and only us.
“Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along
Just be glad you got the whole wide world – Solange, F.U.B.U.”
Borderline (An Ode to Self Care) feat. Q-Tip: As a black man I feel like I always have to guard up and i’m never completely comfortable. You see what’s going on out there — how could I feel safe? My body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode.
“You know I have the world to think
And I know I gotta go ahead and take some time
Because the last thing that I want
Is think that it’s time that I leave the borderline.”
VeryWell noted that “[t]he fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response, refers to a physiological reaction that occurs in the presence of something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically. The response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety.” Self care is important. There’s a lot going on but you should always make time to take care of yourself and let your guard down.
A Seat At The Table is a seamless continuation of the album that came before it. I listen to one track and end up listening to the whole album. Then I sit, revel in the magnificence and listen to “Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams.” It makes me feel so good, full, understood, black and proud. There are no skippable tracks or album fillers. It’s a soul cleansing, therapeutic, emotional journey.