November 2016

Solange ‘A Seat At The Table’ Review

As America’s first black President is getting ready to leave and the two replacement choices range between an outright arrogant anti-other non-inclusive billionaire and the former’s former foe, with more behind the scenes ties to people identical to her adversary than her actual adversary, people of color seem to be approaching this transition with a new reemergence of 60’s-esque political consciousness and racial pride. ‘A Seat At The Table’ will truly take a long time but if metaphors mirror reality the process will be completed simply with perseverance, dedication and an acknowledgement for the need of independence. ‘Table’ has been in the works, according to some publications, as early as 2008-09. After suffering “a little of a breakdown” Solange stepped back and reevaluated her artistic approach and the toll it was taking on her life, set up her own label, dropped an EP, and continued to craft “Table” with just a piano, melodies and ideas.

These sketches were brought to soul music heavyweights ?uestlove and Raphael Saadiq to flesh them out and add their special brand of sauce to the slow cooking recipe. Solange cooks up a soulful dish which has not many contemporary equals, “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing” is how Knowles describes ‘Table’ all topics that transcend time and human barriers giving way to having tracks come to fruition almost a decade after inception. ‘Cranes’ originally worked up as a demo from a Raphael Saadiq instrumental CD in 2008 gets revisited and polished by it’s original creator and years later is reborn as a Billboard Hot 100 lead single. Sonically ‘Table’ never really wavers from a soulful somber melancholy mood, a feeling characteristic of the social change the album speaks on topically. Live instrumentation and an astonishing ensemble of guest appearances and collaborative contributors weave in and out of the airy strings, funky basslines and programmed-acoustic drums intertwined with interludes that construct a project more along the lines of documentary than album. Master P narrates an intrepid journey to independence through self-awareness and enlightenment.

‘Mad’ features Lil Wayne venting, alongside philosophical sung lyrics on the dangers of the self-titled emotion, only to come to the correct conclusion a verse later. ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ and ‘F.U.B.U. pinpoint emotions and frustrations almost all blacks face in a world so obviously stricken with the fear of a black planet. “Don’t feel bad you can’t sing along just be glad you got the whole wide world” lyrics that perfectly simplify the “why can’t we use the N word” argument to those too blind or foolish to see the world for what it really is, all cleverly sung over an interpolation of C-Murder’s ‘Down For My Niggas’. Knowles really shows the power of music with this LP showcasing how effective an honest message is over artistically beautiful and accessible music. ‘Table’ concludes with Master P professing ‘We are the chosen ones’ and declaring that ‘we are going out as royalty’ a real seat at the table.

Rating 8.6/10

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