Women's Month: One Year With Solange’s When I Get Home
On March 1st we celebrated the one year anniversary of what I consider one of the greatest musical masterpieces of this generation, Solange’s When I Get Home.
Three years after giving us the emotionally strong "A Seat At The Table," Solo returned with a 19-track message that tells of both the power of feminine energy and the Third Ward. From the first listen, I knew Solange was on to something huge and unheard of, but I understand that there are those that didn’t share that same sentiment. It’s not the fact that a lot of you guys didn’t like the album; you fully recognized that she had some bops on there. It was really because a lot of y’all didn’t understand the purpose of it.
Going from an album that talks directly about how a Black woman deals with frustration -- growth on “Don’t Wish Me Well”, expressing ourselves on “Mad”, and finding ourselves in this world on “Where Do We Go” -- it’s not unusual that people would be confused by an album filled with scattered beats, lyrical chants, and abstract meanings. That’s why I’ve decided to step in and help alleviate some of that confusion.
The initial response I heard and saw from listeners was, “What is she actually talking about?” and that is the main issue. What she was actually doing was something that hadn’t really been done within black music. For all of those that don’t know, she was creating avant-garde music. It’s a little different from house music because outside of house music’s purpose of experimentation with remixing and remastering. Avant-garde is music that is “at the forefront of innovation and experimentation, the rejection of the status quo, a critique of popular convention and taste, and a striving for originality that can be intentionally provocative or alienating.”
Solange was not making an album for lyrical interpretation. Still, through variations of sound, DJ Screw samples, and excerpts from known Third Ward residents, including sisters Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, she was trying to paint a picture in the minds of listeners of the landscape of Houston through music. She wanted to challenge listeners to critically think about and analyze music, not just listen to it.
The second issue people had with the album is that some people were looking for a sequel to her third album, "A Seat At The Table," and considered this a disappointment to their expectations. Well, I’d hate to break it to you, but one, you should stop basing your perception of an album off of your pre-expectations and two, this WAS part two. "A Seat At The Table's" main message was for Black women to find themselves. "Rise" called for Black women to wake up, go out, and search for who they are. "Weary" says, though it’s not easy, find your place in the world. "Cranes in the Sky" tells of her trying to find her happiness while dealing with depression. "Borderline (An Ode To Self-Care)" means finding time to take care of yourself so you can avoid going into a crazy or depressive state. "Don’t Touch My Hair" means to find your glory while "Mad" means to find your right to be angry.
Since it is Women’s History Month and this album was for the Black 'wimminz,' let me take this time to break down the overall messages that she conveyed throughout this masterpiece.
Disclaimer: This is MY personal interpretation; everyone’s view of this album is subjective.
Things I Imagined
“I saw things I imagined”
This line is talking about the power of manifestation; to imagine something into fruition is a powerful mechanism and she’s telling Black women to tap into this power. If you want a certain thing or to be in a certain place in life, you need to speak like you already have it; dream about it, envision it. This will make it easier for you to work towards what you want and you will see a phenomenon of miracles and opportunities that you never thought of, happen to you.
Down With The Clique
“We were wild and entertained…”
So this song tells the Black woman don’t be afraid of her inner, wild nature and to embrace herself, and those that have been placed in her life (jump down to "Do Nothing Without Intention") while she is on her journey of discovering herself. By “chasing the divine,” Solange is saying though the journey will not be perfect and she will make her mistakes and have her wild moments, she is finding herself so she is bound to eventually find her connection with God and the universe.
Way To The Show
“Wait, you don't know, known to make rain like a God”
Ok, so close your eyes. Imagine a dark room and the only light inside is red strobe light but there’s a thin blanket of smoke so the lighting is hazy. Next, imagine strippers slowly twirling around a pole in that room. Now there’s a cutaway shot of candy paint Cadillacs slowly swangin' through the streets at night, all while hearing this song in the background. Can you picture it, like an impromptu music video? This is what Solange wanted listeners to do; literally envision her music.
This song itself could be seen as a double entendre. On one end, she is personifying Houston nightlife and on the other end, she is speaking on the power of the Black woman’s sensuality and/or sex appeal. By playing off of the Jezebel stereotype, Solo uses the line “you can get it” to acknowledge that black women have a type of aura that can entice anyone they please, wherever they wants them; “on the way to the show, on the way to the coast, at the end of the malls.”
Can I Hold The Mic
“I can't be a singular expression of myself, there's too many parts, too many spaces, too many manifestations, too many lines, too many curves, too many troubles, too many journeys, too many mountains, too many rivers, so many...”
Black women are not monolithic. Just like we all have different hair textures, we have had different upbringings, obstacles, triumphs, and stories of our lives and we should be able to embrace our ever so many expressions of ourselves.
“Man get down and they putting on a show, girls getting down every day. Working out of town on the floor, making thangs swang on the go ''
Solo is telling women to be themselves without fear of what men will think of them because men are gonna do them regardless. Yes, they will probably throw shade and give you dirty looks about how you live your life, but as long you taking care of yourself and handling your business, don’t worry about what they think or how they feel. Also, she’s telling Black women to let go. You don’t have to be so hard on yourselves all the time; you can have fun, let your hair down, and get down if you want to. Having fun helps you remember that you are human.
“Dreams, they come a long way, not today”
Refer to the song "Things I Imagined." Solange is saying that though your dreams will not always manifest how or when you would want them to when they do, they are far bigger than you ever dreamed. She even says at the beginning that ever since she’s been a little girl, she’s had dreams (I assume those were dreams about she wanted out of her life as she got older) so she was tapping into the power of manifestation way before she even knew what it was.
Do Nothing Without Intention
“Do nothing without intention”
Very self-explanatory line. Just like the saying, “God does everything for a reason,” Solange is also telling Black women to let whatever comes out of your mouth, whatever you pray about, dream, or want to manifest, how you act and react, and whoever you interact with have a clear and conscious intention. Everything that is currently surrounding you is constantly affecting your path in life so make sure that the decisions you make, the type of karma you have, and the energy you put out into the universe can work in your favor, not against it.
“These are black-owned things, black faith, still can't be washed away not even in that Florida water”
It seems that it is a common trend for Solange to include a very pro-black song to make it very apparent of who her targeted audience is. Black people. This is also very surprising that she was willing to make this type of anthem again due to how some non-black listeners responded after hearing ASATT’s “F.U.B.U” which boldly proclaimed, “Don't feel bad if you can't sing along, just be glad you got the whole wide world; this us. This shit is from us. Some shit you can't touch.” Which led to her having to disable the YouTube comments for “Don’t Touch My Hair.” She comes back even harder in Almeda and basically tells us that she likes everything black, even her faith.
A line from her second verse, “I pour my drank on em,” conveys the message to Black women to not live our lives according to respectability politics. Refer to the song "Stay Flo." If you want to turn up, do that. If you want to drink, smoke, and go out, do that. Don't let the world hold you back from living your life according to what makes you happy, and if they don’t like it...pour your drank on em.
We Deal With The Freak’n
“First, I'm tryna get the woman to understand the dynamic power and the spiritual energy. Do you realize how magnificent you are? The God that created you is a divine architect that created the moon, the sun, the stars, Jupiter, Mars, Pluto, Venus.”
When it feels like the rest of the world is against us; we have to take time to remind ourselves of how divine we are as black women. Our hair, our skin, our smiles, our integrity, our strength. The energy we carry, our spiritual connection, our motherly instinct; everything that makes black women who we are. We too, are made in God’s image.
“I'ma get back on my feet, give me a minute. I'ma feel this in my thighs, like he been in it…”
Binz is actually the name of a seaside resort on island territory of Rugen that is right off the coast of Germany, and is known for its luxurious landscape and regal architecture. First, refer back to the song "Dreams." This song refers to Solange dreaming of having a good life. To be able to wake up on CP (colored people) time, which parallels that she wants to live her life according to her time constraints, not when the world says so. She wants the finer things in life: to travel to the luxury commune of Saint-Laurent-du-Var, have a hundred thousand dollars, ride in a rented Rolls Royce with tinted windows, stay in a presidential suite, and smoke her blunt whenever she wants.
Also, she says in the first verse that “I just wanna wake up on ya thigh, on a yacht” but in the second verse she says, “Wake up to that nigga, leave he behind.” This could be implied as though she wants to be able to live the life of luxury with the man of her dreams, she still has her own life, so if things were to go south between them, she can easily leave him and it won’t affect her happiness.
“If it were possible to place you in my brain and let you roam around, in and out my thought waves, you would never have to ask, "Why do you love me?"
It was clear that by adding in this piece was very intentional and a good choice at that. These words are from Poem to Ann #2, a spoken piece from lesbian feminist, poet, and activist Pat Parker who was born in Houston. If a piece is going to represent Black women to the fullest extent, we must include even the voices that may make others uncomfortable and that is why I know Solange knew adding Ms. Parker was not to be controversial, but the importance of being truly inclusive. Inclusive about love, about life, and about the Black woman’s experience. This album was not a piece about feminism; it was about womanism. I bet even Alice Walker is proud.
Sound Of Rain
“Sound of rain helps me let go of the pain”
In the first part of the song, she says “He thinks we don’t wanna tear it up.” I interpret this message as her saying to men, “don’t underestimate us.” We can be just as rowdy and bold as you and still keep our femininity, without intimidation. “We lit on our own,” she says we got our shit; our own money, our own freedom, our own happiness that doesn’t involve men.
In the second part of the song, she pays her homage to Houston with her “swangin’ on em” chant but, when she speaks of how the sound of rain helps her let go of the pain, it reminds me of how Black Christians tend to say that when it rains, that means God is raining down blessings. Majority of Black women tend to go through some form of pain in their lives and she’s saying let the rain wash your pain away, and let it make you anew.
I’m A Witness
“You can work through me. You can say what you need in my mind. I'll be your vessel. I'll do it every time”
I think of this as a form of her communicating with God. Telling Him that she is opening her mind so He can work through her and transform her into her highest self. “And I won’t stop til I get it right, Goodnight,” means that she is admitting to God that she is not perfect and will make mistakes along the way, but she is determined to reach her fullest potential and fulfill her God-given purpose and then she finishes the “prayer.” By “taking on the light,” Solange is taking in what God, and the universe, are trying to show her about herself and use what she sees to be a light to other Black women.
And let us not forget these honorable mentions:
Guwop’s appearance on My Skin, My Logo
Tyler, The Creator’s adlibs
Princess and Diamond from Crime Mob’s snippet for Can I Hold The Mic (they even credited Solo for being the reason why they reunited)
Sampha’s re-appearance on "Time (Is)" (we all know how he snapped on "Don’t Touch My Hair")
Pharrell and Metro Boomin’s flawless production
Whew, I know that was quite a read but, I hope I have been able to provide some form of newfound appreciation of how important this album was to speak to Black women and to uplift us through music. Now go back and give it a new listen and see if you can now see how magnificent you are.
We are not only sexual beings. We are the walking embodiment of God's consciousness. - Alexyss Tylor