A Seat At The Table

It’s not easy to carve out your own niche when your sibling is one of the world’s most beloved pop icons, but with her impressive third album, singer-songwriter Solange clearly has established her own identity. A Seat At The Table hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop album chart, and one of its singles, “Cranes In The Sky,” is nominated at this year’s Grammy Awards (to be presented Feb. 12). It may have taken several years, but many fans and critics now regard Solange as a unique artist in her own right (and not merely Beyoncé’s younger sister). A Seat At The Table—co-executive produced by Solange and Raphael Saadiq—is a contemporary r&b album featuring spare instrumentation, electronic percussion, layered vocals and original songs about interpersonal relationships. What gives the 21-track disc its gravitas are the spoken-word interludes between the songs. These interludes—featuring hip-hop artist/entrepreneur Master P and Solange’s parents, Matthew Knowles and Tina Lawson—address racism and the struggles of African Americans, thus giving the disc a powerful connection to the Black Lives Matter movement. In the middle of the program are two moving, related, sequential pieces: an interlude by Master P (“For Us By Us”) and a beautiful, poignant, foul-language-laced statement of black pride (“F.U.B.U.,” featuring The Dream and BJ The Chicago Kid). Each piece is deeply memorable; the combined 1-2 punch is devastating. The mixture of social commentary and honest, personal songwriting makes A Seat At The Table an important work of art. On the concluding track, “Closing: The Chosen Ones,” regal horns blare as Master P says, “We come here as slaves/ But we’re going out as royalty ... .” (Solange will perform at the Broccoli City Festival on May 6 in Washington, D.C.)