Self-Made and Self-Heard: The Music in the Madam C.J. Walker-Inspired Series Is Entirely by Black Women

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (2020)
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (2020)
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

For centuries, if you wanted something to be done right, black women typically had to stand up and say, “I’ll do it.”

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Leading the charge is particularly significant when it comes to telling our own stories. Though writing and directing are routinely considered a form of storytelling, a film or television series’ music also can make or break a story. That is certainly the case with Netflix’s Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.

Inspired by Madam C.J. Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles’ book, On Her Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, the limited series stars Academy Award-winning Octavia Spencer as the historic hair icon who became the nation’s first female self-made millionaire.

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The synopsis, per Netflix’s press release:

Against all odds, Walker overcame post-slavery racial and gender biases, personal betrayals, and business rivalries to build a ground-breaking brand that revolutionized black haircare, as she simultaneously fought for social change. The four-part limited series also stars Blair Underwood as her husband C.J. Walker, Tiffany Haddish as her daughter Lelia, Carmen Ejogo as Walker’s business rival Addie Munroe, Garrett Morris as Walker’s father-in-law, Kevin Carroll as her longtime lawyer Freeman Ransom and Bill Bellamy as Ransom’s cousin Sweetness.

In Self Made, black women run the show with co-showrunners (and executive producers) Elle Johnson and Janine Sherman Barrois, directors Kasi Lemmons and DeMane Davis, cinematographer Kira Kelly and more!

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So, yes, it makes sense that the music department is also led by a black woman! That black woman is the series’ music supervisor, Morgan Rhodes. Rhodes was inspired to feature an all-black female artist based soundtrack, which is a huge deal.

“I heard about Madam C.J. Walker from my mother who had heard about her from her mother,” Rhodes told Bustle. “I felt that was something so powerful about her story having been shared across three generations of black women in my own family and thought it would be really beautiful to have the story of Madam C.J. Walker told by black female artists across diverse generations and genres.”

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The importance of telling our own stories—throughout every generation and medium—is very real.

“When I was introduced to Dorothy Vaughan—a black woman along with two other women, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson [in Hidden Figures]who helped our country advance in the space race—because I had never heard of them, I thought, they too, were historical fiction,” Spencer recently told The Root. “To find out that they actually existed and were never really considered or their stories were never really told alongside the astronauts that they helped—it was a little infuriating. But here we are, they are hidden no more. And for Madam [C.J. Walker], her story’s out there. Her story’s known to us in the black community, but the fact that it’s really lost to the masses is part of the reason why I wanted to tell [her story].”

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The soundtrack features works from Janelle Monáe, Queen Latifah, Rapsody, Santigold and more. You’ll even get to hear the vocal stylings of Tiffany Haddish in the series!

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The complete soundtrack list, via Bustle, is below:

Episode 1: “The Fight of the Century”

“Dance or Die (Instrumental)“ by Janelle Monae

“Offence” by Little Simz

“Lets Go” by Shanice

“Seven Nation Army” by Kimberly Nichole

“His Eye Is on the Sparrow” by Norfolk Jazz and Jubilee Quartet

“Work” by Izzy Bizu

“It’s Been a Long Time” by Lady Wray

“Creator” by Santigold

Episode 2: “Bootstraps”

“Woman” by Diana Gordon

“Oprah” by Rapsody featuring Leikeli47

“I’m a Mighty Tight Woman” by Sippie Wallace

“Sweet Kisses” by Esther Walker (performed by Tiffany Haddish)

“On II U” by Alex Isley

“Rise Up” by The Freedom Affair

“Woman” by Andreya Triana

Episode 3: “The Walker Girl”

“Nature of a Sista” by Queen Latifah

“Harlem Shake” by Baauer

“Keep A Song In Your Soul” by Mamie Smith

“Little Girl New” by Kimberly Nichole

“Drive” by Raiche

Episode 4: “A Credit to the Race”

“Altitude” by Tiana Major9

“Call Me Queen” by Ndidi O

“Who I Am” by Latashá

And if you need to relish in further black excellence, get into the black pioneers of The Glow Up 50, in partnership with Netflix.

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Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker is now available on Netflix.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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DISCUSSION

So, will there be a physical soundtrack album to be released?  I’d like to buy one.