India.Arie: The Meaning Behind the Music
As mainstream Hip-Hop and R&B became popularized in Black mainstream culture, Neo-Soul was recognized less during the 2000s. One artist, in particular, changed the way we view Neo-Soul: India.Arie. While the queen of genre, Erykah Badu, made Neo-Soul “everyday music,” India.Arie added a level of social awareness to her music that was much needed during this new century. India Arie made several noteworthy songs during the 2000s that had a significant impact on the black community during this time.
In her Acoustic Soul album, released in 2001, there is a song entitled “Video” that eventually became one of her most popular songs. In this song, India.Arie preaches self-love and accepts the fact that she might not always look or act like what society’s beauty standards are. She states, “I’m not the average girl from the video/ And I ain’t built like a supermodel/, But I learn to love myself unconditionally/ Because I am a queen.” Freeing herself from all insecurities, she reveals that no one has to look like a supermodel, they just have to look like themselves.
India.Arie is very consistent in her message in that another acclaimed album, Testimony: Vol. 1, Life and Relationships, contains another song that captures her voice. The song “I Am Not My Hair” comments on the way that society (and the black community) views black people’s hair. She recalls all of the tropes around hair when singing, “Good hair means curls and waves (no)/ Bad hair means you look like a slave (no).” She refuses to allow others to define her and the black community based on their hair by stating, “At the turn of the century/ It’s time for us to redefine who we be.” Through this song, she is making a statement that society must change their perceptions of what black hair is, and they ultimately begins with the black community.
India.Arie redefined the voice of Neo-Soul by using her platform to create “everyday music” that also talked about important issues. India.Arie’s music allows other artists like her to speak on similar topics, which may have daunting before her speaking up as a black woman. Her mixture of making a statement through “everyday music” makes India.Arie’s music timeless, considering many black people deal with the same struggles that she was speaking on several years ago.