It often costs our music figures their longevity and potential impact in the industry and it is our music and culture that suffers.
What do you really want from Black Women?
Black women what do you want? What do you want out of R&B? What do you want out of black music? What do you want from black women in the music industry?
I can tell you what has been given to us. Let’s take a trip through the popular R&B songstress careers of the 2000s.
You have Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Mary J, Mariah, Faith Evans, Melanie Fiona, Jazmine Sullivan, Floetry, Beyonce, Erykah Badu, Brandy, Amerie, Ashanti, Keyshia Cole, Tweet, Kelis, India Arie, Kelly Price, Fantasia, Teedra Moses, Macey Gray, Vivian Green, Angie Stone, etc. Now I want you to look at the list because many of these women went through public personal battles, including battles with themselves. Many of these women have steered clear of being in the forefront of the industry again. Many of these women have been devalued in their contribution.
We have seen black women in the music industry have their careers deprived of longevity due to lack of grace from their supporters, mentorship, support, and love. There will be no more greats until it is too late.
So again, I ask what do you want? I see many want women of the music industry to be like Yolanda Adams and give their own tributes 20 years from now because the number of women of R&B and the longevity of their careers are dwindling. The turnover is real.
Summer Walker’s situation has proved disturbing to me for various reasons.
The first is the clear proof that the black community could use some healing of our own mental health through creating boundaries.I will take you through a brief ride through issues with mental health that black people already have. Firstly, Black Americans are 20% more likely to be mentally ill than the rest of the general population. Anxiety disorder is the most common mental disorder there is. Black people have greater experience with PTSD than the general population. Only 30% of black people have expressed getting mental health help as opposed to the over 40% of the general population. In 2017, the second cause of death for black people ages 15 to 24 was suicide. You would think we would cut someone a break if they drew a line for themselves to help keep their sanity.
The second issue with this is that despite the risk on our mental health black women do it anyway. "It" meaning choose the work that takes the biggest toll on us with plenty double standards, without appreciation or acknowledgement. Let’s talk about what Summer Walker has given to us despite her struggles.
She has broken streaming records for her incredibly relatable song lyrics and music.
She gave us a No. 2 album on the Billboard Charts as a DEBUT album.
She gave us the second most streamed R&B album by any artist, a spot previously held by men.
She has helped fight against the polarization of sexuality and sex work for black females and black female artistry and didn’t have to be a rapper to do so.
She helped give us visibility, vulnerability, and honesty with mental issues for black women.
She helped give us the word “no.” Black women in the industry don’t get to say no. If you do, they turn on you. Ask Rihanna and her frustration with demands from fans for her next album while she pursues making history on black women’s behalf. Ask Lizzo when they keep trying to give her a genre. Ask any black female rap artist anything. Hell, ask your boss, your man, your family. Black women can’t say no when the choice is between duty and self-care.
The third thing that disturbs me the most is the while the Kanye’s of the world get to do serious damage to themselves, their loved ones, and even the image of the black population through their own mental health struggles, it is an eccentric songstress who is torn down for her asserting her own boundaries. The men get to go off and argue about who the King of R&B is but the black women, who struggle with mental illness, silently hold their ground and produce HIGH QUALITY art for us. It is Solange, SZA, Summer, and the like who give us a piece of them anyway despite their struggles and compromises.
The fourth thing is that we turn around and shake our heads at Lauryn Hill, the potential, the years passed. We could have given her the generosity and support she needed when she needed it the most. Who knows? It could have turned into a career filled with more music, less meet and greets, less concerts and touring but something that can help give voice to us, our struggles, and the ability to overcome.
Instead we give Adele, who has gone on a literal hiatus with no momentum lost on her, grace and space to heal from the toll of touring and the industry. Other artists like Ellie Goulding, and Bebe Rexha get premium space on platforms to explain themselves and their care but when a black woman draws a line, we are up in arms. A black woman says “No” and her consumers turn on her? Do you not hear her lyrics crying out on our behalf when the Iggy Azaleas of the world are allowed to amass millions of Youtube views presenting our realities as her “aesthetic?” This has to stop and build up and support our black women in the industry. They create paths for us. We cannot be the enemy to ourselves.