Photo from gotceleb.com
By Vinny Ball
Solange has earned a seat at the table with her latest release,”A Seat at the Table.”
The R&B singer examines African American womanhood and the social injustices African Americans face in her new album, producing intricate musical landscapes that serve as the perfect complement to her ethereal harmonies.
Because of this combination, Solange captured the essence of what her ethnicity means to her.
21st-century soul maverick, Raphael Saadiq, provided production on the majority of tracks and is listed as an executive producer alongside Solange. Aside from concentrating on injustice, a primary focus was ensuring that this record sounded like nothing else in contemporary R&B.
“A Seat at the Table” is entirely devoid of tropes that have become synonymous with Hot 97; suffocating 808 basslines and played out trap percussion are nowhere to be found. Instead, they have been replaced by organic arrangements. Thanks to a great deal of live instrumentation and funk synth lines similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear,” Solange’s story becomes that much more personal.
From the start of the record it is apparent that Solange’s own experiences will be the vehicle for a journey through empowerment. She advises on “Rise” to “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.”
Interspersed throughout the record are interludes courtesy of her parents and hip-hop artist Master P. They serve to immerse the listener further into the issues weighing on Solange’s mind, such as racism and self-identity.
“It’s such beauty in Black people,” her mother, Tina Lawson, points out on “Interlude: Tina Taught Me.”And 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 just pro-black. And that’s okay. The two don’t go together.”
That careful articulation of thoughts serves as an ideal segue into the song “Don’t Touch My Hair,” where Solange’s melodies swing from side to side over rolling kick drums. She laments the invasion of privacy committed by the white patriarchy, “Don’t touch my hair/When it’s the feelings I wear.”
Through Lil’ Wayne’s contribution to the song “Mad,” it becomes clear how personal this project is for all involved. Wayne closes out his verse by rapping “And when I attempted suicide, I didn’t die/I remember how mad I was on that day/Man, you gotta let it go before it get up in the way/Let it go, let it go.” The rare and meaningful verse from Lil’ Wayne is serves as a testament to the depth of Solange’s songwriting.
Solange expresses a similar theme on the equally impressive “F.U.B.U.” With instrumentation provided by the former producer for Vampire Weekend, Rostam Batmanglij, Solange confronts racism on her own terms when she recalls “And they ask you, “What’s your name again?”/Cause they thinking, “Yeah, you’re all the same.”/Oh, it’s for us.”
Because it tackles such pressing issues that are crucial to the fabric of humanity, “A Seat at the Table” is nothing short of a masterpiece that will influence soul singers for generations to come.
With this being her finest release to date, it will be interesting to see how Solange progresses as she moves further into the mainstream.