By Abdul-Latif Islam
Solange Knowles recently released her third studio album “A Seat at the Table,” which harmonizes brutal and delicate black girl magic into a landmark protest album brimming with urgency, strength and genius.
She discussed how the album was inspired by the police killings of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, both unarmed black men.
“It wasn’t always easy. [I] often wanted to give up and hand the pen elsewhere, but I knew I had to use my voice to tell this story,” Solange stated on her Twitter account.
The soloist has writing and production credits on every track of the album, sharing them with R&B luminaries such as Raphael Saadiq, Questlove, and Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth.
The album presents a family affair with interludes like “Tina Taught Me,” where Solange’s mother Tina Lawson talks about her irritation at black pride being seen as anti-white or reverse racism.
“I think part of it is accepting that there is so much beauty in being black. And it really saddens me when we aren’t allowed to express that pride in being black,” Lawson says in the album.
The song “Don’t Touch My Hair” honors the legacy of Solange’s mother and grandmother, who were hairdressers. It is a forceful battlecry of self-determination and a defense of the body.
In the interlude “Dad Was Mad,” Solange’s father Mathew Knowles talks about being one of the first black students to integrate an all-white school where state troopers escorted him past Ku Klux Klan members who threw cans and spat at him.
“We lived in the threat of death every day. Every day,” Mathew Knowles says. “So I was just lost in this this vacuum between integration, and segregation and racism. That was my childhood. I was angry for years.”
Solange echoes this sentiment on the track “Mad” featuring Lil Wayne, where she says “You got the right to be mad. But when you carry it all alone you find it only getting in the way.”
Solange’s older sister Beyoncé is not featured on the album, but she and Solange do share the exceptional quality of being siblings who both had No. 1 albums in the same calendar year. Only two other pairs of siblings, Michael and Janet Jackson, and Master P and Silkk the Shocker, share this achievement.
Music mogul Master P, a mentor to Solange, is heard often throughout the album as he recounts how he began the successful record label “No Limit Records” out of the back of his car.
“I put all my CDs and cassettes in the back of my trunk and I hit every city, every hood,” Master P said in an interlude. “My grandfather said “Why you gon’ call it “No Limit?’ I said ‘Because I don’t have no limit to what I can do.’”
This isn’t the first collaboration of the two, as Solange was featured on the 2002’s tween jam “True Love” with Lil’ Romeo, Master P’s son.