Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What Do The Lyrics "Melanin Too Dark To Throw Her Shade" REALLY Mean In Beyonce's "Brown Skin Girl" Song?

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Update: February 13, 2020

This pancocojams post explores the possible meanings of the line "melanin too dark to throw her shade" in Beyonce's 2019 song "Brown Skin Girl".

This post also features the verse from that song that includes that line.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composers of this song and thanks to Beyonce for her musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.
Much of the content of this post was written as comments in this July 21, 2019 pancocojams post "Brown Skin Girls Throughout The World Comment About Beyoncé's Song "Brown Skin Girl" "

Please share your explanations for that line in the comment section below. Thanks!

[Verse 2: Beyoncé]
"Pose like a trophy when Naomi walk in
She need an Oscar for that pretty dark skin
Pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in
Drip broke the levee when my Kelly roll in
I think tonight she might braid her braids
Melanin too dark to throw her shade
She minds her business and wines her waist
Gold like 24k, okay"

Click for the complete lyrics for this song.

Azizi Powell, July 23, 2019 at 4:14 PM
"Here's a link to a July 23, 2019 article about Beyonce's "Brown Skin Girl":
If I correctly understand its main point, that article states that Beyonce's "Brown Skin Girl" is and should be directed only toward dark skinned Black females. [Note: I disagree with this point.]

The author of that article reached that conclusion by explaining a line in that song whose meaning I'm still not sure about:
"Beyoncé is deliberate in her intention by mentioning beautiful brown beauties Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Campbell, and Kelly Rowland in the lyrics of the song.

She added to her specific pigment description by saying “melanin too dark to throw her shade.” For those of us with basic knowledge of the parts of speech, we know that the word “too” is an adverb that emphasizes the adjective “dark” to create a stronger sense of the darkness being referred to.

To break it down: Mathematically, that “too” would more than likely be represented as a power symbol on top of a number to show that the number is to be multiplied to equal something of greater value. Extra. More. Additional. This degree of melanin is specifically devoted to women who are often berated for their Blackness, women who represent African ancestry and heritage and are mocked for it.

This song is for those Black woman."...

Azizi Powell, July 23, 2019 at 5:10 PM
"I think that article's author Imani Bashir, is suggesting is that the lyrics "melanin too dark to thrown her shade" means that the person's melanin is "extra dark" and therefore it can provide shade (against the hot sun)- better than melanin that is not extra dark.

And that might be what those words mean in the context of that song. However, part of my problem with this interpretation is that in American English "too [something]" is usually a negative -examples: "too big", "too loud", "too much".

The word "too" might mean "very" or "so". I don't suppose that Beyonce's song means that a dark skinned person's melanin is too dark (extra dark?; very dark?, so dark?).

Maybe it's just my socialization that makes me think of this interpretation.

Clearly, the word "too" isn't supposed to be a negative in this song or is this song throwing shade?"

Azizi Powell, July 23, 2019 at 5:13 PM
"Am I the only one that thinks about the African American drag originated phrase "throwing shade" when they hear or read the phrase "melanin too dark to throw her shade"?

A definition for "throwing shade" is "making an artfully executed verbal or non-verbal insult".*

Are the words "too dark melanin" supposed to be throwing shade at people who have dark skin colors? (This can't be correct given Beyonce's song is sung in celebration of dark brown skin.)

But dark skinned people -and not just dark skinned Black people-are used to being subtly and directly insulted by people because of their skin color so, there's that.**

What do you think the lyrics "melanin too dark to throw her shade" means (in the context of Beyonce's song)?.

*Click for a pancocojams post about "throwing shade".

**Click for a pancocojams post that mentions the 2008 Trinidadian/Tobagan Reggae song "Darkie" by Orlando Octave and documents how "darkie" in that Caribbean nation isn't a put down but a descriptive and often complimentary referent for dark skinned females and males."
UPDATE: July 24, 2019 7:29 AM
I woke up thinking about the "melanin too dark to throw her shade" line in Beyonce's "Brown Skin Girl" song.
It occurs to me that other parts of that song includes references to "skin like pearls" and "your skin, it glow like diamonds". Perhaps the "melanin too dark to throw her shade" means that the skin shines so brightly it can't be hidden by the shade (of a tree?).

By the way, I just posted the question "what does "melanin too dark to throw her shade" in the discussion part of the lyric page on Hopefully, some commenters will share their thoughts on this line. If so, I'll quote them in this pancocojams post.

UPDATE: February 13, 2020
The 1929 novel The Blacker The Berry, written by African American author Wallace Thurman popularized the saying "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice", I've been thinking about that saying after recalling that Tupac included the line "The blacker the berry" in his 1993 Hip Hop song "Keep Ya Head Up" and Kendrick Lamar used that same line as the title of his 2015 Hip Hop song.

It occurs to me that the line "melanin too dark to throw her shade" in Beyonce's 2019 song "Brown Skin Girl is another way of praising very dark skin color. If "melanin too dark" in those lyrics mean "skin so dark" or "very dark", and if "throwing shade" means that you are putting down (insulting) someone, then those lyrics can have the same or similar sentiments as "The blacker the berry/the sweeter the juice".

The terms "melanin" and "melanated" have been widely used since around 2014 among certain populations of African Americans (those who are "woke" - conscious of the political & social realities of race). Among this population, "melanated" is an adjective that means "full of melanin" (i.e. full of Black African ancestry). "Melanated" is especially used to refer to Black people with dark brown skin.*

My guess is that "Melanin so dark to throw her shade" means that the person's skin is so dark that- just by that person's very presence- it throws shade (put down/insults anyone who isn't that dark. In other words, her very dark skin (melanin) by its very being excels over anyone who isn't that same skin color.

If this is the correct meaning of "melanin so dark to throw her shade", then that line is a contemporary version of "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice". As such it's the complete reversal of how colorism usually operates throughout Western history and culture, in that colorism usually considers light skin (skin color that is white or near white) to be far better than black or brown skin.

From "5 Truths About Colorism That I've Learned As a Black Woman In NYC" by Kristin Collins Jackson, Nov 18 2014
..."Colorism is the principle that those with lighter, fairer skin are treated with a higher regard than those with darker skin, and it happens both between racial communities and within them. Media outlets have long been accused of using Photoshop to lighten darker-skinned folks in order to make them more appealing to the masses. During Obama's first run for president, sources audaciously pointed out that our first black president was a light-skinned man, suggesting that he may not have been elected or had the same opportunities to be elected if he were darker-skinned. This discrimination has historical roots — during slavery, lighter-skinned black people often worked in the house, while darker-skinned black people were relegated to work in the fields.


colorism is one of the worst types of discrimination, it in itself does not discriminate. It exists everywhere, in all cultures, and in all races."...

"Melanin so dark to throw her shade" lyric is part of the contemporary "Black girl magic"/"melanated people" meme that echos the much older "The blacker the berry/the sweeter the juice" saying. Although these sayings are reactions to deep seated prejudice against dark skinned people, my position is that colorism that favors dark skin people over light skin people is just as problematic and poisonous as its reverse.

*Click for the May 2019 pancocojams post entitled "What Does The Term "Melanated" Mean & When Did "Melanin" Become A Popular Referent For Black People?"

Source #1:
From BROWN SKIN GIRL, [sound file published by Beyoncé on Jul 19, 2019]
(Numbers assigned for referencing purposes only; All these comments are from July 2019.)
1. Omni EyeAm
"Melanin too dark to throw her shade! Say it louder for the ones in the back!"

2. Jessica Cooper
"I felt that in my soul!!"

3. Karen Adkins

4. nichail Miller
"I finally got it😂 I’m so slow🙈🤷🏾‍♀️😂😂😂"

"I actually dont understand that verse can someone explain please"

6. nichail Miller
"DIVA & QUEEN Melanin protects you from the sun. You don’t need shade....I think 💕"

Source #2
Beyonce - Brown Skin Girl (Dance Video) by The Happy African Kids (Dream Catchers) ft. Wizkid
Dream Catchers Dance, Published on Jul 20, 2019
1. mAya SquAw
"Melanin to dark to throw her shade👸🏿🌍❤️"

2. la joie X
"mAya SquAw what this part means?
People can’t stop to repeat that"

3. 10hooper
"@la joie X it means nothing can phase them. Their skin is a shield to the hatred and negativity"
The commenter meant "faze" and not "phase". "To faze is to disturb, bother, or embarrass, but a phase is a stage or step".

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  1. Maybe related to spice black hypocrisy. But encouraging her at the same time to be proud of her color because she's is beautiful.

  2. The song black hypocrisy throwing shades at "black" people with a lighter shade of brown. But there is complexities in complexion- so even the lighter skin girls of color may still be proud that they are "black".

    1. Anonymous, thank you very much for alerting me to Spice's Dancehall song "Black Hypocrisy". I wasn't aware of that song until your comments.

      Here's a link to lyrics for and comments about the song "Black Hypocrisy:

      And here's an excerpt from an article about that song:
      "Spice Premieres "Black Hypocrisy" Music Video
      BASHY STAFF, October 23, 2018
      Yesterday Spice broke the internet. In what was seems to have been done as part of the promotional run for her upcoming EP, Captured, the dancehall artist appeared to have bleached her skin.

      Instagram users noticed that the artist had deleted all of the content off of her page save for a singular image that announced that she would be going on Instagram Live on Mon. Oct. 23 at 1:00 PM (EST). Many of the viewers were shocked to see a transluscent-skinned Spice appear on-screen sitting down to do an interview with Billboard’s reggae contributing writer.

      The artist said that Black people in particular have had plenty to say about the complexion of her skin, with regards to her being “too black” and “dirty”, and tying those elements to the trajectory of her career. She mentioned that she decided to “bleach” to make them happy but knew that it would be a lose-lose situation as people would always have something to say. The stunt was the prelude to the release of the artist’s music video, “Black Hypocrisy”, which discusses the negative effects of colourism while promoting self-love."...

    2. Thanks again to Anonymous for letting me know about Spice's song "Black Hypocrisy".

      Click for a pancocojams post about that song that includes the official video, a verified comment from Spice, the song lyrics, and a few comments from that video's discussion thread.