Our country is in an active discussion about race fueled by social media, police brutality and the presidential election. From Jamila Woods to Kendrick Lamar, artists of color are sparking the conversation by creating musical pieces calling attention to the systematic oppression of black people. The most recent artist to tackle this topic is Solange Knowles, who released her third studio album “A Seat at the Table” on September 30.
Songs from the 21-track album describe life through Solange’s eyes, the eyes of a successful musician and woman of color living in the U.S. In her collaboration with Lil Wayne, she confronts the “angry black woman” stereotype on “Mad.” With “Don’t You Wait,” she comments on the irony of the power her white critics have on her success. And perhaps the track that speaks the loudest is “F.U.B.U.,” which features BJ The Chicago Kid and The-Dream.
“…when I think of ‘F.U.B.U.,’ and the album as a whole, I think of punk music and how white kids were allowed to be completely disruptive, allowed to be anti-establishment, and express rage and anger,” Solange said in an article published on her label’s website. “If we were inclusive and we were violent and destroying property and able to express that kind of rage, then it would not be allowed in the same way.”
“F.U.B.U.” stands for For Us By Us, which is also the name of the Master P spoken interlude that precedes the acronym-titled track. On this interlude, Master P says so simply, “I tell people all the time, ‘If you don’t understand my record, you don’t understand me, so this is not for you.'” This statement transitions into Solange’s powerful “F.U.B.U.,” which explains the oppression of people of color and demands a celebration of blackness. A lyric that sums up the song is “don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along, just be glad you got the whole wide world.”
Combine “F.U.B.U.” with “Interlude: Tina Taught Me,” and Solange is saying it louder for those in the back. “Tina Taught Me” is a spoken word interlude by Tina Lawson, Solange’s mom. In this interlude, Lawson explains black pride so eloquently that it should be written in textbooks.
“It’s such beauty in black people, 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’re just pro-black. And that’s okay, the two don’t go together. Because you celebrate black culture does not mean that you don’t like white culture, or that you’re putting it down. It’s just taking pride in it.”
What Solange is saying in “A Seat at the Table” is something all Americans should hear. It is an album that is a tribute to Solange’s parents and a declaration of black pride in America. The album is also a call to attention of the effects of oppression, but a message that it will not stand in the way of equality and black success. But Solange says this best herself:
“With the state of our country and all of the messages that we are constantly being fed about not being good enough, not being beautiful enough, not being smart enough, not having the economic power enough, and constantly being told that we’re not enough, I wanted this to literally be an hour long PSA that we are beyond enough.”
“A Seat at the Table” is available on iTunes and all major music streaming services.