Panama and Shamira Discuss Solange's "A Seat At The Table"

YouTube screenshot
YouTube screenshot

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 is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


I wanna know how you have time to watch all these shows and listen to these records. Listen, between work, my side hustle, a young daughter and my extracurricular activities, I have seen 10 minutes of Luke Cage, missed BOAN and 13th, and only listened to two tracks of Solange's new album… And that was the chopped and screwed version. Anyone wanna watch a child for me so I can catch up?

Oh, and if anyone has any Cincinnati recommendations for a Playa, hit me up. I'm coming out there in a couple weeks for a business trip, but I will have some downtime to check stuff out.