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Solange: spring/summer 2018
Leather jacket and trousers worn as dress TELFAR, string vest worn as bag, string bag Blitz London, protective goggles City Hardware, leather belt Martine Rose, cowboy boots in bag Jessie Western, logo patterned tights Gucci, mules Y/ProjectPhotography Jackie Nickerson, Styling Katie Shillingford

Solange: Runaway Bay

Solange: spring/summer 2018

‘If you are really still, it will hold you…’ As she records her follow up to A Seat at the Table on the island, the singer pens a seven-part thank you to Jamaica

This is a condensed edit of the full story, available to read in the spring/summer 2018 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here

i. Runaway Bay, Jamaica

I’ve been following Joni. First through her words, then through her truth, then through her melodies and the way I dance and drown in them. Then through her jazz, through chords that ease themselves into one another without ever showing their shadows. Through her exodus. To Topanga, and then to Laurel, and now to Runaway Bay, without even trying to find her.

I’ve been looking at photos of this house in Runaway Bay for five years. Wanting to know if it could tell my secrets. If it could hold me. If I could write music, and drink wine, and draw sketches, and sleep well naked and invent new ways to say how I feel. If I could burn my sage, and wash my hands with Florida water right there on the porch until I feel renewed. 

It did. It does. I am hugging this house. Kissing her feet. She is a vessel. 

And so, as I land in Kingston, like many times before, I feel out the vibrations of the land in which I am soon to ground with. It’s a familiar feeling. One I have grown to love deeply and want to feel again, and again. I make the drive.

I put on Sister Carol in the car. Thank you Sister Carol. Thank you for “Liberation for African”. Thank you for its rumble, its warmth, and its reverb in the right places. Thank you for its beam. Thank you for its knowledge. Thank you for the way its been holding me close these last few weeks. Thank you for making me feel heard, more understood, and understand myself better. Thank you for making me feel closer to God, and for the balance I obtain with each sway and each head nod. Also, thank you for the gift that is Jawara. 

When I am creating new work, I always feel a bit unbalanced. The circles get darker, my jaw a bit tighter, my hair less combed, my spirits more unaligned. I don’t sleep very well. I’m always buzzing. 

I am easily distracted.

“Thank you to this island for giving so much, sharing so much, and being a constant place of refuge and retreat when I’ve needed it the most. Thank you for its lessons and its guidance, for its stunning reflections and affirmations into the world”

Through the course of me writing this piece, I will stop to:

1. Put Hoisin sauce directly on my tongue

2. Use my one hitter to hit “one”, 3 times

3. Watch the same Monique interview I’ve been watching all month (nothing seems more life-affirming at the moment)

4. Look at photos of Curren$y’s new antique blue bel air

5. Watch the glorious Howard students sing “Bitch Better Have My Money” loudly in unison in the lobby of the administrative building after 1 million dollars of financial aid going missing. Young heroes indeed. 

ii. Port Antonio

When I wake up in Port Antonio I plan on having a sip of coffee. I want to eat in silence, then try and record the vocals one more time to “Where do we go from here”. I have re-recorded them over like, four times. I am feeling insecure about not enunciating my words clearly enough for people to understand the lyrics. I take a walk and sit under the big tree. I smile thinking about jumping off the cliffs in the lagoon. I have jumped that cliff about half a dozen times, and each and every-time it feels like a deliverance and salvation and I want my future to be bright blue green like those waters. 

That night some friends and I go to a small bar just up the hill where they play music videos. The bartender and I both love Nivea. Nivea was a hair icon. We once presented an award together when I was 16, she was so cool. I often watch this hilarious interview of hers where she sings “I been pop’n dem baaaabies out” and it lifts me up every. damn. time. 

“When I am creating new work, I always feel a bit unbalanced. The circles get darker, my jaw a bit tighter, my hair less combed, my spirits more unaligned. I don’t sleep very well. I’m always buzzing”

iii. St Elizabeth

I’ve spent 2 Christmases, 1 Thanksgiving, 1 breakup, 1 breakdown, and 1 birthday in St Elizabeth.

I’ve spent many a day on the beach, just my son and I, both of us reading and running and smiling wide in the sun, tasting the salt in the corners of our mouths.

I’ve had dinner in country fields of the mountains. Drank too much punch and watched the masters play dominoes in the middle of the ocean at the Pelican Bar, feeling the slam of the ivory all around me.

I’ve taken my son to play a football match in the middle of town, and I love my baby, but he got smoked. 

We met Country Man in that same square of town the next year. 

iv. Grace Jones

Mom. Dad. Icon. Artist. Mother. Cosmic Wonder. Waver of the Freak Flag. The First. The Only. Metallic Marvel. Earth Pioneer & Space Dweller. Thunder and lightening. Founding Father. Our Lady Mother of Avant Garde. A Priestess. Queen of lewks. Dazzling Muse of Many. Our Opulent Opis. 

None of us will even come close. 

v. Kingston

I was 15 when I first went to Kingston. I met a teacher and felt really spoken to in a way I hadn’t before. His words made me feel really proud to be black, really proud of the colors of the blood of black martyrs, the wealth of the mother land, and the vegetation of the promise land. I went back to Houston and spent a lot of time alone, and was a seeker of constant reflection and stasis. I am forever grateful for the teachings. For the word. Those teenage days have become a part of me and a stranger all at once, but the word will remain always. Thank you Kingston. 

vi. Port Antonio

One of the best birthdays I’ve had, was spent on Winnifred Beach, jumping on a trampoline trying to grab hold the horizon and thinking my now husband was going to propose. 

He did not that day, I really played myself, but he did a couple of weeks later. But it was so close I could feeeeeel it. I feel things really strongly, when I am here. 

vii. Runaway Bay, Jamaica

On the fourth day I wake up here, someone casually mentions Joni Mitchell painted the mural in the bedroom below. There’s a story in a Rolling Stone article from 1982, about her on a quest to the nearest shopping center for yellow paint, so she can paint the mural. The store was closed so a man painting a curb gave her some of his. There was no place to store it, so she put it in a coconut which splattered everywhere on the drive back, so she only had a little left. 

The yellow in the mural suddenly looks really lonesome and sad to me. 

The crickets and roosters are so loud here, they are seeping through the mics on the recordings. They want to be heard so I will keep them on top of the mix.

“I have jumped that cliff about half a dozen times, and each and every time it feels like a deliverance and salvation. I want my future to be bright blue green like those waters”

I start to chart out all the songs I’ve been working on, and give them intentions. 

My demo names are always a trip and have little to do with the songs. This album, I might keep a few of them as real titles. We listen to a jam none of us even remember we made in the wee hours and wonder if its too esoteric. Then I wonder if Stevie Wonder would like it. If he happens to like it, I won’t worry so much about its life. 

On the last night here at dinner time, we laugh so hard about a cake, I get worried that I’m going to laugh this ugly laugh forever. I keep yelling “make it stop” in between loud cackles. I truly want it to cease. When I laugh ugly like that, my gums show way too much and my chin drops so I cover my face entirely and put a fist up under my neck. 

The next morning I gather my things and walk up and down the beach saying my goodbyes, and till we meet agains. I say my thank yous. Thank you to this island for giving so much, sharing so much, and being a constant place of refuge and retreat when I’ve needed it the most. Thank you for its lessons and its guidance, for its stunning reflections and affirmations into the world. If you are really still, it will hold you. If you are really quiet, it will speak to you. I want to listen forever.

Hair Jawara at Bryant Artists using John Masters Organics, make-up Ren Nobuko using Dior Beauty, photography assistant Jarrod Turner , styling assistants Molly Shillingford, Ioana Ivan, Nicola Neri, hair assistant Kashima Parris, location manager Dylan Brennan, local production Carleene Samuels, Lisa E Smith at Creative Source Jamaica, Jakes Hotel, executive talent consultant Greg Krelenstein at Starworks Group, special thanks Studio Private and Itopia