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India.Arie, in my personal opinion, can be classified as one of the most influential female artists of the 21st century. Not because her music with its smooth melodies and meaningful lyricism can be put in the higher echelon of elegant music (same way jazz was); but rather being a Neo-Soul/R&B artist, India has blurred the lines between poetry and music. I am not speaking about the poetic romance either, but the poetry of pure beauty. Her counter hegemonic style has created masterpieces such as “Brown Skin”, “Strength, Courage, & Wisdom”, and finally “I am not my hair”.

India.Arie – I Am Not My Hair Featuring Akon

I am not my hair is by far one of India’s best pieces of work, as it has attacked the way our society ideally views beauty. Although the piece was originally written for women who had lost their hair due to cancer, it speaks a very clear message that is applicable to everyone. In our society today, women have to work more than most to attain society’s idealistic view of beauty; each race with their own respective issues. Either the hair isn’t curly enough, too straight, or it’s too nappy. In some cases, the hair on your head isn’t even yours. A friend of mine once told me a joke basically saying the difference between a black man and woman is that one goes to the barber to get their haircut while the other goes to the store to get their hair bought.” At first I thought it was a funny joke, especially after watching this clip from Fresh Prince, but didn’t really think about how true it was.

Really has society become so obsessed with the visual, that we’ve forgotten what’s really inside the person? It’s become so sad that even our youth today are going through the same problems. In “I am not my hair”, she points out the fact that today African-American girls are being tormented for their “nappy” hair. Although it’s not the same thing as using the “n” word, it still signifies the same thing, a form of demoralization. India has taken a style of music grown out of the African-American community to fight for its people.

I specifically chose to show the Akon remix version because this not only applies to women, but to men as well. This remix not only incorporates the male aspect of this issue, but also a lot of musical qualities that make it distinct and musically “more meaningful” from the original.

Side note:

Compared to the original, the steadiness of the beat, and use of the piano and synthetic strings made for a very smooth soundscape. I felt like listening to the original really took away from the meaning and emotional intensity the remix offered. This “mood” or “feeling” can be said about many songs which are at a much slower tempo, and involve some form of strings. It is easily heard in any drama, where some climactic scene is about to occur:

Michael Olorunnisola