Panama and Shamira Discuss Solange’s “A Seat At The Table” » VSB

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Panama and Shamira Discuss Solange’s “A Seat At The Table”

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Panama: So, Solange dropped an album recently that has the internet’s buzzing: A Seat At The Table. Let Facebook tell it, it’s the best, Blackest album that’s been released in quite some time. I’m not sure I’m in that camp, though I can understand why folks love it so much. But I don’t think it’s nearly as good or as Black as Facebook keeps telling me. I do love “Cranes In The Sky” though. I mean, I try to drink lots of things away. They never go away though. I’m not sure who “they” is but they do not mean me well. Before we get into the details and minutiae and shit, do tell, how do you feel about A Seat At The Table, as a whole?

Shamira: Well, Peej, I love the album like a fat kid loves cake. Or really, like I love cake. Because who doesn’t love cake? Well, my waistline don’t love cake, but I digress.

I think I’ve listened to at the very least a portion of the album every day since the album dropped. At work, on the train, at home. It hasn’t gotten old yet. I wouldn’t say that the album is unskippable per second, but I don’t have a part that I actively dislike – which is astounding, considering that Solange solicited a verse from Lil is-he-or-isnt-he-retired Wayne. And it wasn’t half bad!

The standouts for me are definitely in the front half of the album. “Rise” is a great opening track, “Weary” is solid, and “Cranes in the Sky” hit me like a punch in the gut because it basically detailed the 2nd half of 2014 for me. I am very glad to be away from that dark and shadowy place.

With regards to the alleged Blackness…I’m gonna admit I’m getting tired of the concept of “unapologetic” Blackness. Anything with Black content creators that caters to a Black audience via their personal experience is going be Black, period. Like sure, the album is Black as fuck, whatever that means at this point…but so is the upcoming smash hit Boo! A Madea Halloween! I feel like this arbitrary label is being used to put certain content on some sort of communal pedestal that’s supposed to represent the “best” of us, but it becomes trite because people, places, and things will inevitably fall short one way or another. See: Newton, Cam.

The fact that the album feels both personal and relatable matters more to me than the fact that the album reminded me that I need to put tea tree oil in my box braids. But jokey jokes aside, I fucks with this album the long way – and this is a person that has gone on record previously as saying that Solange’s best song was the Proud Family theme.

Not sure, but I think your “they” is the same “they” who is allegedly conspiring to keep Birth of A Nation down.

Panama: At this point, the only thing that I can think of when it comes to Birth of A Nation is this: life comes at you fast. Not even a year ago, Nate Parker was on top of the world…well, it’s a year later.

Back to Solange. I really want to like this album because social media keeps telling me its a good album. And it’s not a bad album, but I keep waiting for somebody to send me the version they have because the versions I’ve heard on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music – which are all the same – are fairly snoozeworthy. “Cranes In The Sky” is an awesome song. I sing that song here or there. I sing that song almost everywhere. But the rest of the album does absolutely nothing for me. Not even “F.U.B.U.”, you know the song she sings about a song about singing about a song about Black people. It’s one of those pointless songs that folks are acting like is revolutionary. Thing is, it might be if she had any white fans who would come to her shows and NOT be able to sing “for all my niggas in the whole wide world…”. But she doesn’t.

But because I’m a scholar and a gentleman, I have continued to listen, daily, to this album. El Debarge likes it. Grand Puba likes it. Enrique Iglesias likes it. I keep it on repeat hoping that something sonically changes that makes me say, “oooooooooooh shit!” But mostly I just want to vacuum when it’s on because it’s awesome vacuum music. Or even awesome elevator music. I definitely don’t think it’s some ultra Black album either. I just don’t hear it that way. I appreciate the interludes where her mama and daddy and Master P speak on their experiences, but at not one point did I involuntarily raise my Black fist. And I’ve heard songs that made my head nod because my neck knew it was phat and if J. Cole can go platinum with no features, I know that anything is possible.

I will say that I’m glad Solange is getting all this love, though. There really is nothing negative to say about her. She seems fun and awesome and is doing it her way and she DJs and brings Jay and ‘Yonce to parties in NYC. She’s the fun Knowles. And just because I don’t think its a dope album doesn’t mean it isn’t. Apparently it’s moving tons of people and she had the #1 album in the country this week.

What I have seen is several (I won’t exaggerate and say enough people to engender an entire article) people suggest that this album is better than Lemonade and unnecessarily draw a Beyonce comparison. Again, unnecessary. But since we’re here, I think those people are smoking all the crack. And the Sherm. Any merits to that claim for you and those dreaming eyes of yours?

Shamira: Your feelings on Solange are basically my feelings on Chance the Rapper’s music. He seems to be a really dope, really earnest personal over all, just a bucket of fun and hugs and good nature, but Coloring Book has like…3 and a possible enjoyable songs to me. At first I thought it was because I didn’t grow up in the Black Church (TM) , but I’ll bussit to some Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. I just hate his nasally rap-singing voice he insists on using, almost as much as Big Seans. I hate neither as much as E-40s though. As a friend once said, E-40 raps like Jell-O is falling out his mouth.

You really don’t like “F.U.B.U”? I don’t think we’re gonna hear people chanting it at rallies or anything, but me, myself, personally, I’ve made it a personal objective to roll up at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC, find an elevated surface, and proudly bleat “All My Niggas In The Whole Wide World” with my arms extended . Considering how tickers to the NMAAHC are apparently going faster than the spicy dark meat at your local Popeye’s establishment , this dream may not be fulfilled until 2019 – but still I rise.

I get the inclination to compare this album to her sister’s, even if I find it misguided. For one, both albums seem to be the closest we have ever gotten to a truly personal look into their lives and experiences, down to their parentals and the influence it had on their Negro nose and Jackson Five nostrils. I’d even go so far as to say that the sisters are informed by each other to a certain capacity. But that’s pretty much where it ends. What Beyoncé did is on a whole other scale of accomplishment, as a complete project that captured so many aspects of Black womanhood in a truly unprecedented way. It’s unfair to pit the two against each other. Solange’s album stands strong on its own merits – and for what it’s worth, I think the songwriting on little sis’s album is stronger.

Speaking of “Cranes in the Sky”, how many ways did you X something away that Sol ain’t get too? Off the top of the dome: I ate it away, I smoked it away, I subtweeted it away, I stair mastered it away only to follow it with chickening it away….I think I got some solid bars for the remix.

Also, what are these magical 20 extra states in the US of A that the Knowles family has access to? Because last I checked there were only 50 states to travel to.

Panama: I definitely did all those things away. The I also crackpiped it away, but my mother and my parole officer agreed to never speak about that again. Also, about Chance, you’re smoking. I think Chance is one of the most brilliant artists out right now. At the same time, I COMPLETELY understand hating his voice. I like it (again with El DeBarge), but I cannot fault anybody for hating his music because they can’t stand the sound of his voice.

I think if you went up to the NMAAHC, even in 2019, and started singing those lines, a 65-year-old Black woman would slap the taste out of your mouth for disrespecting your elders with such filthflarnfilthy language. Nat Turner ‘nem died for this museum to exist and you niggas coming up in her talking about niggas.

Niggas. Not for nothing, I’ve been twice and have tickets for another weekend in October, January, February, and March.

I’m glad you brought up how many states Solange has claimed to have visited in order to ____ it away. No lie, I actually talked myself into thinking that maybe she’s including states in other countries because she really wanted to use the term “states”. For instance, if she’s been to Frankfurt, Germany, then she’s been to the state of Essen. I realize it’s a reach, but so is saying the songwriting on A Seat At The Table is stronger. Neither is particularly dope, but I’m going to go ahead and say that “Sorry, I’m not sorry” is the greatest 4 word combination of words in music history, only followed by “suck on my balls, pause” especially because there was no reason to pause that statement. Literary brilliance.

Last question and we can wrap this up, what kind of staying power do you think this will have? Is this an album you think we’ll be listening to a year from now or was it a wrinkle in time?

Shamira: My baby brother just went to visit the NMAAHC as a college trip and spent the entire day sending me snaps of him dabbing next to statues of historic Black folks. I feel like I should be allowed to drop a lyrical N-bomb for the culture.

When is the Negro community going to come up with a nickname for the NMAAHC that rolls off the tongue better? I understand that the Nigga Museum won’t curl all the way over for the aforementioned senior citizens, but we gotta figure something out. My ESL self keeps tripping over all the damn letters.

Better and/or more memorable one liners does not a better song make, PJ. By that metric Weezy is one of the most prolific songwriters in history. (I know someone is going to try to defend this statement. Don’t. The nigga been rapping about being an alien for the last decade.).

The test of time assessment is really hard for me to gauge – but at best guess now, I don’t think it’ll be in regular rotation until the end of days (largely because I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to sit forlornly in a bathtub while trying to identify those 20 surplus states), but when it comes up on shuffle, I’ll gladly give the whole album a run. It’s basically the Get Lifted treatment, except I won’t be sad that he has basically devolved into Michael Bublé for Niggas.

*sighs* I miss the old John Legend. The crooning fuckboy John Legend. The barely faithful John Legend. Brutally honest John Legend.

*goes off to count the states in Germany*

Panama: Few things:

1. I’ve seen friends of mine on Facebook refer to it as the #Blacksonian. I’m not completely sure who said it first, but they are brilliant.
2. Lil Wayne is absolutely one of the most prolific songwriters in history. Period. To deny that is to deny yourself. Know the ledge. Hate him or love him, the man has done the work.
3. I can’t imagine that I’ll be listening to this album past the writing of this piece, save for “Cranes In The Sky” which deserves some year end consideration on every list.
4. I do not miss John Legend. He gives me agita.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Annalise Keating

    I don’t think I will ever understand why folks feel the need to compare ASATT to Lemonade. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

    I loved lemonade but I am not convinced that it was a window into Queen ? soul. Most of the songs were written by multiple writers and she never publicly acknowledged that this was from personal experience. If she did ??? hive members please share the source.

    • cakes_and_pies

      Because people like to establish catty fights between women all the time. See J Lo v Mariah, Lil’ Kim v. Nicki, Brandy v. Monica…
      They aren’t even in the same musical genre.

      • Said it once,
        I’ll say it again.
        Venus. Serena.

        • God Shammgod

          I don’t get this. They actually were rivals by definition…they frequently played each other for championships…

          • While I’d rather see them rock out in doubles against the world, People were constantly mentioning how much better Serena was than Venus, forcing the rivalry.

            • God Shammgod

              That’s actually a recent development. For the first 5 years of their pro careers, Venus was outpacing Serena on matches and was viewed as the stronger, more consistent player while Serena was viewed as erratic. It was their father who kept insisting that Serena was the one to watch for. People forgot how long it took til it became clear just how superior she was as an all around player.

              • miss t-lee

                I think if Venus wouldn’t have gotten sick, she’s till be kickin’ Serena’s azz on the regular.

                • God Shammgod

                  I think it’d be a closer contest but Serena’s power and court coverage alone grew way past Venus’ before she developed that autoimmune disease.

                  • miss t-lee

                    Definitely would be closer.

              • Noted.

      • Annalise Keating

        “Because people like to establish catty fights between women all the time. See J Lo v Mariah, Lil’ Kim v. Nicki, Brandy v. Monica…”

        Very sad.

    • Ess Tee

      I wasn’t convinced that Lemonade was really about Bey & Jay’s marriage either. I felt like the songs were telling a story, but not necessarily theirs. In “Formation” (as well as the song that Bey did with Nicki a few years back), Bey basically let us know that she’s aware of what people say about her, her husband, their child, their marriage, their existence.

      “Formation” opens with “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess…” It’s right there that she’s telling folks “I got yo’ gossip right here.” And I think that’s where Lemonade as a whole goes. It’s still a magnificent album in that it got people in their feels, but I don’t know if it was really autobiographical.

      • Annalise Keating

        I could not agree more. Beyond a few lyrics in Formation I wasn’t sure that it was autobiographical.

        • God Shammgod

          I don’t know if music has to be autobiographical (or self-written, for that matter) to feel and be personal or come from a real place. By that metric we would eliminate most of the work and artists we have come to love today.

          • Annalise Keating

            Agreed. I loved lemonade despite me not feeling it was autobiographical to ?’S life.

      • Iwanthamma

        I knew it wasn’t autobiographical because I’ve heard her speak. There was NO way she wrote that. Plus, she and her husband are admirably very private in a world where everyone tells everything. Can’t see her waxing poetic about his infidelity for all the world to judge. Beyoncé is an AWESOME performer…and smart enough as a business woman to hire great writers, choreographers, etc.

      • Leggy

        This.
        I think she thought – “y’all keep saying jay is cheating, might as well make some money off that”.

    • Damon Young

      “I don’t think I will ever understand why folks feel the need to compare ASATT to Lemonade.”

      Because they’re sisters who both released an album in the same year. Those comparisons are inevitable.

      • Annalise Keating

        Some of this is personal. I have a sister. A major cause of the strain in our relationship is because folks (including family) constantly compare us. One sisters always feels like she has to measure up to the other. And other always feels bad for any success she has because it indirectly makes her sister feel inadequate.
        So i can’t understand why anyone who has either lived through this or witnessed this would do this to other people.
        Human behaviors constantly mystifies me. But I’ve been told I am weird.

        • Chinasa

          Hurt people, hurt people?

        • Kim

          Same here smh

        • DomiMami

          Yeah, imagine being a twin going through this! So true!

    • Brandon Allen

      Them being sisters is enough to compare. It doesn’t have to be catty or anything.

      • Annalise Keating

        I hear you. But these comparison can be harmful. See my explanation to Damon below…

  • RaeNBow

    this should have been recorded live LOL #iLaughed …heartily.

    but Shamira’s whole paragraph on “unapologetic” Blackness: *round of applause*

    Junie is my fav song on the album. matter fact, think i’ll go listen to it now

    • miss t-lee

      I’d rather listen to the actual Junie than that song.

    • DomiMami

      …hit em with a left! Love it

  • cakes_and_pies

    -Praying this doesn’t dissolve into another NP/BOAN thread.I’d like to thank Solange for successfully bringing back the interlude and not just skits.
    -Haven’t enjoyed interludes since the new jack Swing era ended.
    When she said she traveled 70 states, I figured she meant she traveled 70 states of mind.
    Like Dave Chappelle said “Some people say cucumbers tastes better pickled” Everything ain’t for everybody

    • Annalise Keating

      “Haven’t enjoyed interludes since the new jack Swing era ended.”

      Yes!!! My only modification….Haven’t enjoyed interludes since Fugees “The score”

      • cakes_and_pies

        That’s a good one.

        • [Insert Creative Name Here]

          I’m gonna say since Outkast’s Stankonia. *ring ring*

      • Blueberry01

        I’d like fo’ chicken wings, fried hard as ish. Leave that retarded leg out…

        • Annalise Keating

          Hahahahahahaha……that was a really funny one!

          20 years! Dang! #Iamold

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    • You can replace new jack with biggie. That fool would have insane skits between raps

    • Cleojonz

      The interludes were dope!

      • Dee

        Yes, they were. The Mad interlude is my fav

    • Janelle Doe

      “(I guess) Everything ain’t for everybody” Jill Scott … [I think I did a few separate, but possible inflammatory things there] just saying she too has gone a different way than Jilly from Philly in my humble opinion.

    • DomiMami

      Interludes were cool the first few spins, but I have saved the album on Spotify w/o them.

      They were great compliments to the songs!

    • Jasmin

      When she said she traveled 70 states, I figured she meant she traveled 70 states of mind. —> Yes!

    • E_Deshon

      Ok so I’m rolling with your interpretation of 70 states. I seriously concluded she went to some states more than once ?. I think its safe to say I’m not woke enough for this album…i spend my time trying to figure out the meaning of lyrics.

      • cakes_and_pies

        I have dyslexia, so I’ve been told countless times over the years that I think differently or someone says “I never though of it that way.” I understand abstract better. I am not that woke. :-)

    • HoneyRose

      I was just thinking about this the other day. I was listening to the Boyz II Men album “II” and they have a couple of nice interludes and intros on there, and I was like, “This was back when interludes were GOOD.”

      • cakes_and_pies

        That was when you wanted interludes to be a full song.

  • Panama,
    If I design, make and wear a tee with “Blacksonian” on it -can you hook a bruh up on a pass or two, cause hookups.

    Extra cool points. I won’t “do it for the ‘gram”, but I can take a pic and post it here, lol.

    Great post on Solange, we been waitin’.

    • Adrienne_in_MTown

      I’d buy one, too.

    • Jennifer

      I’d buy it. If this happens before December, I’d buy them for my momma and aunt, force them to wear ’em to the Museum on Thanksgiving Day, and take pics.

      • Picturing it is hilarious. Especially if they have straight faces.

        • Jennifer

          That can be arranged.

  • Adrienne_in_MTown

    I’d just like to give Honorable Mention to Master P for lending a pure NOLA perspective to the album. I really liked hearing his historical account of where ‘No Limit Records’ came from as they were my gateway drug into Southern Rap.

    • Michael

      Master P was one of my favorite parts of the album as well. Especially since I was alive while this history took place. It made his portion that much more palpable.

  • kolakola

    I played this for my friends as we sat around and discussed other topics and it was mostly a I-like-Cranes-in-the-sky-but-the-others-dont-wow listening party. I think the album made me appreciate her vocals more-or rather pay attention to them-but that’s about it.

    And its interesting the way Panama feels about ASATT is the way I both feel about ASATT and Lemonade. With all the hype of both and sans the visuals of Lemonade I didn’t get what surge in blackness or black womanhood that I should be or was supposed to feel in regards to either. *shrugs* I’m not that deep though so I guess a lot of stuff flies over my head anyway.

  • Digital_Underground

    I’ve heard most of the album. I really like what I did hear. Still at no point did I think I was hearing anything groundbreaking. But it usually takes time for art to be recognized that way.

    There is a perception out there that very little “good” music is being made now. There is also a perception that “conscious” music is missing as well. When people start from those assumptions anything that seems to go against the grain is immediately hyped up. That could be happening with this project.

    • People were talking about this album like it was Voodoo 2.0. I was just confused.

      • Digital_Underground

        It actually took me a while to adjust to Voodoo. I was expecting Brown Sugar part 2. Eventually I found myself playing Voodoo nearly every day. When it comes to hearing new music our own expectations can taint the experience.

      • Hibiscus???

        Uh oh, it wasn’t? What are YOUR thoughts on it

        • The Master P skits were the best part. Lyrically and melodically I felt the album was too meditative but never in a way that was transcendent like the best of Alice Coltrane. Small dynamic range. Very affirmation driven. Nothing bad but it wasn’t challenging or interesting. If you’re the demographic she’s after I can understand loving it though.

          • Hibiscus???

            I’m not her demographic, I thought you was.?

            • Negative. That’s #BlackGirlMagic

          • LoveTrenia

            Ankh of Amen-Ra, nuff said. Love Alice Coltrane.

    • Annalise Keating

      I hear you. Music like any art doesn’t always have to be ground breaking to illicit such a response. Sometimes it just has to speak to you or touch you in a very personal way. That can be a very subjective thing.

      • Digital_Underground

        Indeed. Plus, music can grow on you. I constantly find myself going back to old music that I originally thought was just “good” before.

  • HouseOfBonnets

    So many quotables

  • HoobaStankyLeg

    I think the album is amazing, and we are talking about me. I’ve hated music since the early 2000’s. I’m not big on Beyonce’s music unless I am going through a specific time in my life that mirrors the song. But with Solo’s album, I think she did a good job in simply capturing everyday life of black women/girls. I don’t have to be going through a specific thing in order to feel this music. I think that’s what I appreciate the most about this album.

    ETA: Like the article says, I don’t want to compare the two but since it will come up…

  • Chance would be dope but there’s waaay too much Jesus Church stuff in his music (and he’s not the greatest rapper that currently exists like Vince Staples is because Vince Staples is Vince Staples who’s EP is currently in stores who everyone should buy).

    I appreciate the album because it sounds like an actual RnB album. Not one of those “singer” albums that is really just rap beats with a someone sorta harmonizing or whisper-talk-singing. I am a fan of this format. I’ll be honest though, I remember the Master P parts more than anything from Solange. The production on the album is amazing, but it’s done by Raphael Saadiq so that isn’t surprising at all. I didn’t really connect with this album on any personal level though. I’m 90% sure I’m also not the audience for this either so that doesn’t really mean much. This is a very #BlackGirlAffirmation Tumblr album. No shade or palm trees. Just my 1st listen it definitely felt like Solange is the type of person who has a tumblr and is part of Black Tumblr.

    • Chinasa

      I was a HUGE fan of Chancellor, until Coloring Book. *Unpopular opinion* Very meh project to follow Acid Rap. His voice and rap flow took a dramatic turn here. Plus he is super holier than thou on this tape (I blame the success of Ultralight beam and Sunday Candy). Again, meh…

      • When he was with Donnie Trumpet for that album I knew that was the beginning to when I was no longer going to be a huge Chance stan which is unfortunate being Acid Rap was amazing.

        • Chinasa

          Yea. That sounds about right. I should have seen the writing on the wall at that point.
          I got more into Vince Staples thanks to the VSB/VSS tribe tho.

    • I like Chance but I don’t love Chance. Coloring Book was a good listen but the more I listen the more I skip certain songs. I also like that he’s a rapper under 30 that I don’t want to punch. Need to listen to more Vince.

    • Wild Cougar

      Certain type of Black girl affirmation

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