Attack of the Afros!

The natural hair movement has skyrocketed over the last few years and today we will be discussing its impact on the music industry. For the feature I rounded up some of my favourite natural hair bloggers to gather their thoughts on the crossover of our worlds.

So without further ado ladies…take it away!

First up we have Saabirah

How do you think the natural hair influx has impacted the image of black women in the music industry?

Saabirah Lawrence is the name and blogging is my game lol. Anyways, I’m currently two years into the blogging game. I have a lifestyle blog SaabirahLawrence.blogspot.com – A space for my thoughts, a variety of topics from mental health to feminism and black empowerment.

I didn’t think I had much to say on this topic as I don’t watch many music videos, when I do it’s generally because I enjoyed the single and want to see if the visuals match the song.

I miss the days when video were abstract and futuristic. I’m a 90s baby so I grew up watching Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes featuring in some awesome videos. The wind machines, the choreography, that is what made those music videos so great. It’s just not the same, I feel like the music videos now lack creativity and individuality.

The lack of natural hair looks in that era didn’t bother me, I was still seeing black women of all shades, at the time that was enough representation for me. Besides we still had Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill , Jill Scott, Kelis and Erykah Babu representing for the naturals. During that time relaxing and straightening your hair was a norm and whatever is a norm or the majority will be reflected in the music industry.

Fast forward to 2017 and the natural hair movement is booming, there are natural hair festivals and shows. Does this influx of natural haired sisters impact the music industry?

Nope… If I’m honest I do not expect much from artists. Having women with natural hair in videos is still seen as political, or symbolic. Unfortunately natural haired sisters can’t just be in a music video just because, there has to be reference to her natural hair and if she is just in the video it isn’t a dark skinned women, neither is it a woman with tighter curls.

I feel like black women are only really shown in a good light when the artist is “woke” or the song itself is about black empowerment. A great example is Che Lingo – Black Girl Magic. A visual representation of black love and appreciation. I have noticed that dark skin women in the music industry will have better visual representation, whereas the men tend to go for the sex appeal and rich boy aesthetic. Nadia Rose – Skwod shows inclusiveness without having to make a point of it, It’s not a song specifically for black women, but there’s black women of a variety of shades in the video.

nadia rose and dancers in the skood video

I will keep it relevant and focus on the UK scene. I’m not a grime fan, so I don’t really pay attention to their videos. Grime is the most distinctive genre in the UK right now, whereas pop, rnb and afrobeats is pretty universal. Again I do not expect much from the UK artists, especially the men. The music scene in the UK is a reflection of the lifestyle a lot of us live, it’s relatable and relevant to an extent, so I expect grime artists to speak on the life they have lived. Many do not know, nor pay attention to the natural hair struggle. Which is probably why the natural hair movement is not reflected in their music videos.

I’m aware that a lot of artists will not have as much creative control as they’d like, especially those who just want to make their music and money. This is a response that a lot of us get when representation is brought up. I still can’t get my head around the fact that these music videos are what people actually want to see. Will fans complain if there is a dark skin love interest? Will they no longer support the artists if there is only women with natural hair in their videos? I feel as if it is an excuse that has been used time and time again. If people continue to follow what the director or management are suggesting then change will never come.

Interesting perspective, time to delve a little deeper. Dami over to you.

Is the image of black women portrayed in mainstream music reflective of the changes in the natural hair community?

Hiya Guys! My name is Dami 😀 my brand name is called Journals of Dami or JOD. I’m a creative artist and a student from the UK. My work comes under photography, filming, blogging and being a YouTuber. Right now I’m focusing on my creative work so I can put my foot in the media and film industry but also because I love to create and inspire 😄

My main goal in the future is to create a filming industry for minority groups including sexuality, gender, race etc ❤.

  • Website: www.journalsofdami.wordpress.com
  • Youtube: Journals of Dami
  • Instagram: Journalsofdami

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I believe I have a question to answer.

woman with a big 4c hairOn the outside of the music industry within the black community, having natural hair has become the norm, one that is widely celebrated and accepted now more than ever before. Instagram pages, YouTube channels and even the movie industry has involved themselves in this uplifting movement for black women to love their original roots, care for their hair and create a strong community between a large variety of different hair textures. However, as big as this movement may be on social media and with some celebrities such as Beyoncé’s formation video that I will talk about later, it would seem mainstream music is still somewhat behind for some.

Media Influence

With a little background to my experience with my natural I was influenced by what I’d seen in the media. I underwent the big chop in 2015 for two reasons, my hair had suffered from over a decade of relaxing and also because having your natural hair out was no longer something to be ashamed of. I began to see more black girls out and about with two puffs, big or small afros, naps galore and textures from the whole spectrum outside and on TV, it was quite an influential moment for me. I went ahead with it and for the past two years I’ve had my hair out for longer amounts of time than my younger self could comprehend.Beyonce and her daughter blue ivy<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
ormation video was absolutely motivating; afros, cornrows and attachments everywhere. It. Was. Glorious. I was used to Beyoncé being all about female empowerment but what I really loved about the video was Blue Ivy’s cameo. Her wild and absolutely cute natural hair for millions of black women and girls to admire, a statement that natural hair wasn’t something to be ashamed of but something to inspire us. The natural hair movement had been growing strong at the videos release so seeing Queen B put her daughter’s hair really boosted the movement, most importantly for little black girls futures with their own self-confidence and hair care. So you’d think “Well if Beyoncé did it, everyone will love it.” I thought this too and you’re half right.

With many black women today still fear leaving their hair out will result in being fired, being ridiculed and told their hair is “too messy for this industry” it becomes understandable why  the natural hair movement hasn’t been able to break through all elements of the music industry or other industries such as corporate, even if A-listers such as Beyoncé and Solange are all for it. While male rappers such as Kendrick Lamar songs contain the lyrics like “show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor,” which for so many black women it was so inspiring to hear a black rapper say. The video for his song humbe,In my opinion, uplifts the black women who had been denied a positive status in society simply of something they cannot control nor need to control, a black woman’s hair is a powerful and emotive message of African heritage. It shouldn’t be hidden.

Looking to the future

As forward as black women may be in representing the natural hair movement within the music industry, the journey to embracing your roots isn’t seen everywhere. It’s important to look at this from the perspective of a black male artist. Looking around to find a black woman with natural hair in their music video is harder than you might think. The Weeknd’s I feel it coming featured a black woman as his continuous love interest through this cinematic short film in his album Starboy, I really liked that but did she have natural hair? No. Did Tyga’s rack city video embrace a black woman with her hair? No. Instead we’re met with 0% representation while black women were used in the background of the video…

As socially forward as Lamar may be, other musicians and rappers need to hop on the movement, empowerment for all black tones and textures is vital without it it gives other people an excuse to divide us since we’re doing it to ourselves, you take a group down that is united through self-love and joint acceptance. Such as in SZA’s music video Love Galore we see her thick hair covered in butterflies and it’s probably one of my favourite music videos, just the simplicity of it as we see a black woman being compared to nature and this is what the natural hair movement also wants to do.

Conclusion

For years the image of the black woman has always been straight hair and the number one reason for this is because we were told straight hair is the nearest thing to beauty, we were told from a young age that nappy hair is messy and every kink and curl needed to be combed. We should be able to flaunt our hair whatever the type may be because we want to NOT because we want to please society but because we want to please ourselves. Only pick that hair straightener if you want to, only pick up your hair bands to create those puffs if you want to. Anyone that tells you otherwise is cancelled. Happy Black History Month.

Up next we have Afro Glory.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
al hair & lifestyle blog run by Shahira, a graphic designer living in London. It focuses on creating a diverse and creative space to share and discuss events, products and services with a special focus on supporting the black British community.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
instagram, Twitter & Pinterest under the social handle @afroglory_

Is there a lack of representation of women with natural hair in the music industry?

As someone who fluctuates between different genres of music, I find it hard to think of natural hair black women currently on my list! Yes, we’ve seen artists like Beyoncé & Solange Knowles do a lot to represent the natural hair community and we love it but the charts and other popular music seems to be dominated by the usual images of straight haired and light skinned men and women.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
oman I can confidently say I feel underrepresented in the music industry. The long battle of representation hasn’t just started with this new wave of naturals and it probably won’t stop in our time either.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
wo perfectly understandable categories: visual representation and lyrical representation. Popular culture doesn’t seem to think natural black women are sexy and it never has. Therefore, you won’t come across many natural black women in music videos or even black women performing with their natural hair.

The recent “trend” of going natural has seen many black men and women discussing the subject in their music. Kendrick Lamar sings on the track HUMBLE in his latest album DAMN:

‘Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
atural like ass with some stretchmarks’

… for me this is what representation of “natural” in the music industry currently feels like. A sentence trapped in a political speech about natural hair, natural bodies, gun violence, police brutality, black on black violence, the N word, racism… and then the one comment of natural hair is lost. I don’t doubt the importance of discussing the other subjects that need to be addressed but I would love for a clear message about representation of natural hair and black women.

A shot of a black woman from kendrick lamars humble music video We’ve come a long way since Donnie – Cloud 9 …I’m just not sure if it’s forwards or backwards in the music industry. This song features lyrics like:

Happy to be nappy, I’m black and I’m proud<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
sen to wear the conscious cloud<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
e…under Cloud 9

When I think back to being a young black girl I remember listening to so many black (mostly female) artists: Jamelia, Destiny’s Child, Rihanna, Macy Gray, Lauren Hill… I felt represented by their presence on my TV and in my music. Some of them were natural, some of them wore weaves, some of them relaxed but at the end of the day they were black, just like me and that was what I resonated with. It made me dream big and feel confident in myself. It made me feel proud.

Now as a young natural haired black woman in her 20’s I feel less represented in the music industry. How is that possible? Maybe it’s because as I have become more educated and aware of my presence I have also started to ask for more. I want more natural hair on my TV, I want more natural hair in my music, I want more natural hair in my magazines, more natural hair products in my shops and more natural hair representation in general!

Conclusion

I definitely feel like there is a lack of representation in the music industry. Even with the few dedicated natural artists I can think of, we have a long way to go. I hope for my own children that when they play music, they will hear beautiful lyrics and picture beautiful and natural black men and women who look like them and that they too will feel empowered by what they hear. I also hope that my children will never lose that feeling of representation in the music industry as I did. Natural hair in music is on the rise, in line with the “trend” but will it fade out again? and if it does when will it back? Is it a never ending cycle?

What are your thoughts on natural hair in the music industry? Let us know in the comments below…

About Ray Sang 343 Articles
A music lover at heart IndustryMe founder Ray Sang is creative industry blogger from London, England, dedicated to shining a light on budding talent. Whether it’s a budding business owner, upcoming poet, musician or fellow content creator, if they are making waves in the creative industry Ray will be there to break the story. You can read more about IndustryMe and why she started the site in further detail here.