Throwback Friday: The Colored Section by Donnie

*Note: I am well aware that Donnie released a second album years ago. I own it and listen to it. Still, I have a strong love for this album.*

Welcome to the colored section…

If Lamya’s Learning from Falling is the international black woman’s anthem, then her American counterpart comes in the form of Donnie’s The Colored Section. Both were released in 2002 and both were unfortunately largely ignored by American audiences. However, The Colored Section just may be the most perfect and progressive of all things neo-soul.

Welcome to the Negro league…

Perhaps audiences were put off by the album’s cover art depicting Donnie as he looks on at a young girl writing on a blackboard. Oh no! This album’s going to teach us a lesson! When there’s so much music glamorizing rampant, irresponsible consumerism and all kinds of exploitation, who wants to hear about self-love and –respect or the general experience of being black in America? Who has time to listen to a man whose voice channels such soul luminaries as Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and the other Donny, Donny Hathaway?

Sign your name on the black list and know this…

The Colored Section explores blackness and black people and, yes, the black American experience. However, Donnie also questions the ways we are driven to consumer culture and why we are so invested in it. I know songs like “Big Black Buck” in particular scare the living hell out of black people too afraid to think that perhaps there is a new kind of slavery in consumer culture. In our designer clothes, jewelry and otherwise unattainable lifestyle via status symbols mentality, we hate to think we have been drawn into the delusions that we can live life like a rap video. Then there are songs such as “Beautiful Me” (which has the wonderfully poetic line “I’m left-handed in my right mind”) and “Cloud 9,” songs most black women can easily relate to but Donnie offers insight from a black male perspective. He celebrates Afrocentricity still shunned by many since they equate Afrocentricity as automatically anti-Eurocentric. They obviously missed the declaration in “Cloud 9” in which he states, “I be a chameleon and wear it bone straight,” in reference to hairstyle choices.

It’s American history…

Donnie mostly focuses on society’s ills from both personal and public perspectives, but he doesn’t steer completely away from love and relationships so often found in pop music. “Turn Around,” “Rocketship” and “Heaven Sent” celebrate romantic love in its woes and glory. But perhaps the most aurally stunning track is “You Got a Friend.” Not a remake of the Carol King classic, this song stands as a new one, a feel good uplifting tune that can bring you to tears.

Welcome to the colored section…

Although I immediately liked The Colored Section, I had to prepare myself to listen to it for a while after that first listen. I have to prepare myself every time I listen to it. It’s really that deep. I mean that voice over that music singing those lyrics was almost too painful to hear. Maybe this is why The Colored Section did not achieve the multi-million sales it so deserved: 1) It’s difficult to accept something so real and perfect; 2) It’s even more difficult to listen to self-criticism of our cultures and condition. Unlike the majority of what we find on BET, the music is not BS. It is an experience, the Songs in the Key of Life, What’s Going On and Curtis of our time.

See what it is to be me.

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