Today Marks the 1 Year Anniversary of Solange’s Wholly Grail Hymnal ‘A Seat at the Table’


On September 30, 2016, Solange’s third full-length studio album A Seat at the Table arrived with a host of expectations from supporters (and general spectators). What would earn our fearless leader her first Billboard No. 1 album, first SNL performance, first Grammy win, first Webby award and an array of other firsts was so much more than wins and praises. The 21-track album (consisting of twelve songs and nine interludes) represents a desperate need to say something – to disrupt the ease with which oppression and injustice infiltrate the lives of Black people racially, socially and creatively. Personal doubt, nerves and uncertainty aside, the album’s several-year-long making was completed, submitted, packaged and shared with the masses who wrote blog essays, twitter threads, news columns and even podcast segments about the refreshing presence of visibility and belonging in its content. The work would later birth two additionally breathtaking pieces conceived by Solange, ‘Scales’ (2017) and ‘An Ode To’ (2017); two giant performance art projects turned historic events comprised of rhythmic geometry and symbolically reclaimed ownership. The album’s companions, two stunning music videos and a photo/lyric book (which ironically includes randomly placed white spaces – blank pages – throughout) is another expression of the project’s pure intention. Opposite Carlota Guerrero’s radiantly muted photography side of the reversible book is Solange’s poetry, which goes from scattered about on some pages to artistically and tightly clustered on others, and occasionally concentrating emphasis on repeated, isolated focus words (like the two page spread of “AWAYs” from “Cranes in the Sky”). And while each of this collection’s components is deeply personal, A Seat at the Table is a welcoming invitation to get to know/relate to (depending on the listener) the identity that is the origin of these things, all things.

A sonic and visual exhibition of the depth and wholeness of Solange’s tangled selves (Black, woman, mother, artist), there are even subtleties down to the project’s collaborators that tell just how open-hearted she intended to be. Contributions from friends and artistic influences (Kelly Rowland, Tweet, Raphael Saadiq, Q-Tip, Kelela, Dev Hynes, Sampha, Nia Andrews and more), interludes of juxtaposed introspection into the Black experience by her mother Miss Tina Lawson and father Matthew Knowles, and narration by rapper, entrepreneur and defyer-of-odds (a quality shared Solange herself) Master P, were all strategically placed so that listeners of all races/genders/ages could pull up a chair. But some were invited to relate and others simply to listen.

Strength and struggle flirt across songs, like how the LP’s opener “Rise” welcomes the crumbling and rising of self’s resilience before transitioning into the defeated exhaustion of “Weary.” “Cranes in the Sky” walks us through aching escapism and the failure of vices when facing the country’s attempt to move selective justice in to replace the “justice for all” it pledges. “Interlude: Dad Was Mad” follows with Matthew Knowles recounting his experience as one of the first few children part of public school integration, and the Lil Wayne-assisted “Mad” pairs the “angry Black woman” narrative with the “Black male thug” misconception for an unfiltered display of these identities’ complex layering. “Interlude: Tina Taught Me” is sandwiched between the defining up-tempo “Don’t You Wait” (where Solange gives restrictors, limiters, prohibitors, obstructors and appropriators her ass to kiss) and cultural code ballad “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Earnest feelings of displacement are expressed in “Where Do We Go” which mellifluously expounds on Master P’s discussion of gentrification on “Interlude: This Moment.” But the No Limit founder’s voice is soon clothed in placid incandescence on “Interlude: For Us By Us” where he shares gems on the right to cryptographic creativity and his comfortability with an exclusive audience. This turning point in the album’s track list is the alley-oop to Solange’s shamelessly crafted, comma-like “members only” moment.

The need to momentarily exist beyond reality’s darkness on “Boderline (An Ode to Self Care) and the dope-boy loving “Scales” is a stamp of whole humanness. “Interlude: I Got So Much Magic, You Can Have It” seamlessly flowing into the Junie Morrison homage that celebrates (art and culture shapers) musically and shames (art and culture vultures) lyrically is a stamp of whole pride. The regal horn arrangements on Master P’s interludes and the gritty, soul-flavored horn line in “F.U.B.U” is a stamp of whole range. So having heard A Seat at the Table referred to as “a political message” for twelve months, I’d argue that it should be regarded as so much more than that. A Seat at the Table is the patchwork of a borderless identity that rages and rises, falls and flies; an audiodoc meets musical on the pride that arouses anger as fervently as displacement, as injustice, as oppression. A Seat at the Table is the wholly grail hymnal of origin identity.

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