In 1993 right after wrapping up A Different World, Cree Summer came out with a very powerful album with her all black punk band Subject to Change. The subject matter of this album was about being black, a women, and living in America back in the ’90s which goes beyond the ’90s and is very relatable to black women in America today.
Subject to Change was a rock music band formed in 1991 featuring the lead vocals and lyrics of actress and singer Cree Summer. The band was signed to the Capitol record label and recorded one album, Womb Amnesia. The album was a funk rock fusion album that reflected the popular grunge of the time. It featured intense feminist lyrics and spawned the song “Soul Sister,” which would go on to be re-recorded by Lenny Kravitz and Summer for her 1999 solo debut album Street Faërie. Due to major power shifts at the label, the album was only available in limited commercial release and never promoted. Only several thousand copies were ever sent out to the public, and they are considered collector’s items.
I recently was listening to an interview with Cree Summer on Questlove’s Pandora show Questlove Supreme where I first heard about this album and band. She talked about when she first came out to California from Canada she original came to start a band but was sidetracked by getting voice acting roles and becoming Freddie Brooks on A Different World. So once she finished A Different World she started up her band and released this album. She toured with Fishbone and all though the album didn’t do well I personally feel like it is a highly underrated album that should be rereleased as I know what she talks about are things girl’s today could totally relate to.
So I took the time to listen to this album on Youtube and I really liked a lot of it. It is a very heavy rock, punk, metal album with a lot of funk & soul in there that could be considered early Afro-Punk. Although there were a few black bands/solo rock acts back in the late ’70s, ’80s & ’90s it was still very progressive to have an all black band with a black female lead singer and black women on strings. Also all of the topics Cree was talking about on the record were very forward thinking and definitely needed to be talked about.
So first I wanna talk about the cover of the album. This album cover is a women’s figure. On her boobs is two eyes and her vagina is a mouth. This cover really embodies the vibes of this album and how Cree was feeling at the time as a black women in her mid-20s.
The first song on the album I love is Someone Like You. It starts with a lot of guitar reverb before getting into the song. This song has Oneida James their bassist and Cree Summers basically going back and forth with Oneida doing backing vocals. During the bridge of the song you can hear things braking in the background before the sax comes in played by Carl R. Young. It’s a hard rockin number about I think commitment. Someone wanting to go forward with you but you just can’t commit yet.
The next song is called Your Life which is one of their slower songs and is about love. Cree sings that she loves someone but that person is broken and even still she would die for them. She knows she can’t make this person whole after all of the things they’ve been through but she loves them anyway. It’s a great anthem for people who are sad and don’t see the value in themselves but she lets them know there is always a person there for you. “Tell your friend fear that you can’t come out and play, your mind is clear send him away” Cree must have really loved this person a lot and I just find this song to be so beautiful both lyrical and instrumental.
Beauty is Made starts off a little slow but then gets louder and more chaotic as the song goes on. This is the first song we start to see the deep feminist stance she takes on this album. This song basically is an ode to all the crazy things men and the entertainment industry makes women do. “Does it make you feel strong to make me feel weak” “Beauty is all that you want us to be” Cree really goes in on men and how they perceive and treat women from sex to just have they look at us. Then during the bridge of the song Cree goes on this rant about all the things women have to do because society makes you do them in order to be excepted. She talks about consulting surgeon and binging and purging then says she is just doing what she is told and is scared of growing old. “You make beauty skin deep, beauty is a piece of meat” “rape me with commercials, magazines and MTV” “I’m as pretty as your politics, pretty as pornography” Then it gets very funky for a minute then goes back to the original instrumental. This is my favorite song of the whole album and I whole-hardly agree with what Cree has to say as a women and even more as a black women. As women we are never taken seriously unless we can “give something” to men and feed their egos both in mentally and sexually as more dominant human and were just these helpless women who need men to make us. This is why the Me Too movement is so ramped and why so many women are finally standing up for themselves and not taking this toxic crap anymore and I love it! “Beauty is Made” “I feel pretty, oh so pretty, pretty f*ckin useless”
This version of Soul Sister is the original harder rock version that would later become the more slow acoustic ballet she sings with Lisa Bonet on her solo project Street Faërie produced by Lenny Kravitz. The opening lyrics are a little different then the ones we know off Street Faërie but the rest are the same except in this version there is a band behind her playing as well as singing back up. I can’t say which version I like more because I like both I think they each have their own qualities to them.
New Day is one of the funkiest songs on the album. I love the instrumentals in this song from the drums to the keys to the guitar playing. It’s just so funky and good. Funky music is one of my favorite kinds of music out there and I love the incorporation of it in harder music. This is just a feel good song about a tomorrow being a new day and everything is going to be alright.
Another super funky song on the album is Just A Thought. This song has a great sax solo during the bridge. I think this song deals with the ego we all have. When we look in the mirror we have to feed that ego and we don’t wanna do have to do that.
Universal Pimp is another hard-hitting song that opens up with Prince style keys from his song Let’s Go Crazy before going back to that hard hitting sound. “Universal Pimp…Pimp of the Universe” This song is basically all the hypocrisy and racist, sexist thoughts that run ramped all around us. She uses religion and the church as an example of how we are taught to think these awful things about other people and how like they are pimping you go to be grave worshiping racist, sexist people. “Only a slave would pray to the grave…”
Mind Noise is incredible both lyrically and instrumentally. I love the guitar solo in the bride and Cree’s voice is so commanding and powerful.
Artificial Evolution is how basically history, what we learn is school and everything that goes on in the world is from “his” point of view of “his-story” and the capitalist ways he makes sure “her-story” doesn’t get told. It’s about how the world has not ever really “evolved” from anything because we are still in the same mess we have always been in for centuries. “Enlightenment is for the rich who can afford to make a donation, a donation is a relief of consciousness in eternal damnation” “This damnation is the home of the lost and the land of the naive, where uprise is criminal behavior and revolution is diseases” “No Justice No Peace” This song is about our country and how awful it is and how we are just spinning around on Earth doing the same awful things year after year and calling it evolution.
Only Color is about how all we see is color in the world and can’t fully see who a person is because of that. How we can’t get along because we just have so much hate in our harts because of all that has been done to one another. Cree is basically saying this all just in our minds and that we should just look at each other as human beings and not just the color of our skin. “Pain is the same for everyman” “We share life, ain’t that enough” “Mother Earth in pain, we are all to blame” “The only color is red color one that blood that flows through your veins” “The only color my brother is the one the mind creates” “One Love” The ending is just a fun jam session with the band and Cree.
This album has 14 tracks on it and all though I didn’t love all the tracks on this album I did love the majority of the songs on here. Cree and the band really bring a lot of life to a lot of issues including sexism, race, prejudice, capitalism, religion, this country and just the world as a whole. As some one who has felt these ways for pretty much her whole life and has tried to find music to go along with these feelings I am so glad I found this as something cathartic to just get down to and say yes I feel these things too.
Now from the interview she did with Questlove she said she was very emotional torn up about how this album didn’t do well and how it hurt her to put so much passion into a project and not see it go anywhere. I felt for her too because after checking this out I totally would have supported this album and the band if I had been old enough at the time (and I was only 2). Well I’m here now to give her and the band the props they so much deserved. I honestly don’t think there was much out back then or even today really speaking to these issues in the same way or at all. I also think that this should be rereleased and put up on the streaming sites along with Street Faërie.
Then again I would support pretty much anything Cree Summer does because she is my childhood and she is someone I have always looked up to just by her story of how she grew up and the way she caries herself and is teaching her daughters to carry themselves as well. She don’t take no BS and I love it. I love her free spirit and her nomadic vibes. There aren’t that many of us out there so I know when I see another spirit like mine I gravitate towards it and latch on as part of my tribe (even if I don’t know them personally).
Anyway I highly, highly recommend checking out this album if this is your style. Also check out Street Faërie which I’ll be doing a review on soon.
Thank You For Being You Cree!
Till Next Time…Support Your Local Girl Gang!