What’s intriguing about India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” is that there is more than one version of it, and one of those versions is a remix with Akon, where it not only addresses the social issues set against society’s beauty standards for black women, but also for black men, all in which makes it a good protest song. The song addresses a social issue that is not only geared towards one group; though I will mostly be talking about the social affects of black men and women, it is also a universal issue, for all men and women and their right to self-definition.

As black woman, I absolutely understand the song and its message about black women’s right to wear their hair how they want and the right to self-definition; but, also, as a black woman, I don’t get the exact same experience of black men, and though I have some knowledge of what it may be like, the remix helps me have a better understanding what their experience may be like. Besides this, the idea of beauty standards of black men’s hair is not usually a topic of discussion when talking about black men because it is usually centered around women. I feel like this song is a great place to, not start, but continue this conversation and raise awareness of this issue.

With this project, I would like to connect the song to situations that have occurred within the last decade that are related to this topic. The song was released in 2005, and because there have been many cases in black men and women being told what to do with their hair, I want to talk about the different cases that have popped up in between that time. I believe that it is important to discuss how relevant this issue still is, fifteen years later.

“I Am Not My Hair” falls under the genres of contemporary R&B and neo-soul, both in which are genres that are popularized by black musicians. Contemporary R&B, or just R&B, is a mixture of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, funk, hip hop and electronic music. The song is mostly neo-soul, best described as having conscious-driven lyrics, which is a mixture of contemporary R&B and elements of jazz, fusion, and afrobeat. In regard to the implementation conscious-driven lyrics in the neo-soul genre, India.Arie is able to satisfy this aspect of the genre with her message on self-acceptance and definition as a means to refute of society’s ideals of what beauty means.

In the song India.Arie rhetorically mentions, “Good hair means curls and wave/ Bad hair means you look like a slave” which derives from the societal idea that kinky hair, particularly 4a-4c hair texture, which negatively called nappy hair, is popularized to be “unwanted and unruly” for one’s appearance. There are a lot of black people, men and women, who have this texture hair that is deemed unruly, and wearing it out naturally, whether it be in an afro, locs, dreads, or styled, is frowned upon. This happens because society’s standard of beauty is based on European features; this includes straight and wavy hair, whereas it is mentioned in the song as “good hair.” ‘

A was law ordered by the governor of Lousiana in 1786 because black women, mostly mulatto women, would wear elaborate hairstyles which would track the attention of white men. The law is best known as the Tignon (Tiyon) law, which enforced that black women had wrap their hair up in a scarf or cloth that was used by slaves, whether they were slaves or not. This directly connects to the song that concerning the right to self-expression through one’s hair because the law oppressed these women from wearing their hair out however they pleased; on top of this, if they were free black people, this law degraded their sense of humanity by making them wear the same rags on their head as slaves would.

This song means a lot to me personally because I am a black woman, with black hair. My hair is what society would call “good hair,” meaning that I have curly and wavy hair, or specifically 3b-3c hair texture. But even with my hair texture, some hairstyles, like afros, are still seen as unacceptable because of the common disregard for black hair in general. Despite this, in most occasions, my hair is accepted by the masses because its closest to what the beauty standards that are set by society. Unfortunately, representation of my type of hair is praised and popularized because of this, and representation of hair that is kinkier than mine is not, and it’s not fair to those who have that hair texture. Not only is this a societal issue, it’s a community-wide issue.

There are still a lot of black people who down on others who have kinky, 4a-4c hair, and being as though I am not one of them, it makes me angry that people are still in a fixed mindset when it comes to following society’s standard views of beauty. I am strong believer of beauty being what you make it, but importantly, I believe that beauty always comes from within; the fact that people still think this way makes me even more passionate towards the subject, especially when challenging it. With that being said, I very much am prepared to dedicate myself to listen to this song repeatedly for this project; with my only concern being the actual podcast itself, being as though I am not the best at controlling and recording for sound.


Originally released song “I Am Not My Hair” by India.Arie

Original song “I Am Not My Hair” by India.Arie featuring Pink

Remixed song “I Am Not My Hair Konvict Remix” by India.Arie featuring Akon