Madam C.J. Walker Netflix show showcases female musicians


Star of new series “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” Octavia Spencer, says she’s learned young how to speak up for herself and reveals she wanted to reignite “what black excellence really means” for younger viewers. (March 19)

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“Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” is a period piece set in the early 20th century, but most music heard in the Netflix series is sparkling and new.

Santigold, Rapsody and other modern female acts celebrate women in songs across four episodes of “Self Made” that arrived March 20 at Netflix.

Walker lived in Indianapolis when building an empire of hair care products made for African American women. Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer portrays Walker in “Self Made,” which focuses on the entrepreneur’s work in Indianapolis from 1910 to 1918.

“Self Made” executive producer Nicole Jefferson Asher credits music supervisor Morgan Rhodes for the idea of pairing cutting-edge music to events that happened more than 100 years ago.

Tiffany Haddish portrays A’Lelia Walker, Madam C.J. Walker’s daughter, in Netflix series “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.” (Photo: Netflix photo)

Rhodes, whose past work includes 2014 film “Selma” and Netflix series “Dear White People,” selected different songs to open and close each episode of “Self Made.” And there’s a strong chance viewers aren’t already familiar with tunes by new artists Andreya Triana and Latasha.

“(Rhodes) did a phenomenal job of seeking out artists who are either new or have been around and haven’t been overexposed,” Jefferson Asher said. “There’s really a freshness and originality of the voices.”

Fresh tunes by women of color, Jefferson Asher said, highlight the timeless aspects of “Self Made’s” story.


“She is a modern woman,” Jefferson Asher said of Walker. “We can see ourselves in her.”

Nearly 20 songs are heard during “Self Made,” which features Tiffany Haddish in the role of Walker’s daughter, A’Lelia. IndyStar provides a track-by-track breakdown below, and we also compiled a Spotify playlist.

Here’s a listener’s guide to “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker”:

Episode One: “The Fight of the Century”

Janelle Monae featuring Saul Williams, “Dance or Die” (2010): An instrumental snippet of this song accompanies the opening moments of “Self Made’s” first episode. “Dance or Die” appears on Monae’s album “The ArchAndroid.”

Little Simz, “Offence” (2018): This song by London rapper Little Simz serves as the opening theme of “Self Made’s” first episode, heard during a fantasy boxing segment in which Walker squares off with business rival Addie Munroe (portrayed by Carmen Ejogo).

Shanice Ross, “Let’s Go” (2019): While this song by Los Angeles rapper Shanice Ross isn’t available on Spotify, “Let’s Go” appeared in a 2019 Under Armour ad starring ski champion Lindsey Vonn.

Lady Wray, “It’s Been a Long Time” (2016): R&B singer Lady Wray recorded “It’s Been a Long Time” as the opening track for her “Queen Alone” album. She was known as Nicole Wray when she collaborated with fellow Virginian Missy Elliott in the 1990s.

Kimberly Nichole, “Seven Nation Army” (2015): A sixth-place finisher on “The Voice” in 2015, Kimberly Nichole covered the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” on the televised talent search. Her rendition is not available on Spotify.

Santigold, “Creator” (2008): The closing theme to “Self Made’s” first episode served as the debut single for Santigold, who has since collaborated with Jay-Z, the Beastie Boys and Diplo.

Episode Two: “Bootstraps”

Diana Gordon, “Woman” (2016): The opening and closing themes to this episode are different songs with the same title: “Woman.” Known for co-writing three songs on Beyonce’s “Lemonade” album, Diana Gordon released her “Woman” as a stand-alone single. 

Rapsody featuring Leikeli47, “Oprah” (2019): Two-time Grammy Award nominee Rapsody devoted 2019 album “Eve” to influential African American women. Rapsody’s ode to Oprah Winfrey is heard here.

Sippie Wallace, “I’m a Mighty Tight Woman” (1926): A rare throwback track in “Self Made,” “I’m a Mighty Tight Woman” was recorded seven years after Walker died in 1919. Sippie Wallace connected with new listeners with a 1982 comeback album titled “Sippie.”

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Alex Isley, “On II U” (2017): The daughter of guitarist Ernie Isley of the iconic Isley Brothers, Alex Isley recorded her “On II U” ballad for a 2018 EP titled “The Beauty of Everything, Part 1.”

The Freedom Affair, “Rise Up” (2019): Nine-member soul band the Freedom Affair is a Kansas City collective that recorded this single for Ohio’s Colemine Records — making the Freedom Affair label mates of Indiana’s Durand Jones & the Indications.

Andreya Triana, “Woman” (2018): The second “Woman” of this episode is supplied by English vocalist Andreya Triana, who issued her “Life in Colour” album last year.

Episode Three: “The Walker Girl”

Queen Latifah, “Nature of a Sista’ ” (1991): Hip-hop trailblazer Queen Latifah helps launch “Self Made’s” third episode with the title track of her second album.

Baauer, “Harlem Shake” (2012): This viral hit is a rare showcase for a male musician in “Self Made.” Baauer’s song is heard when Walker and A’Lelia visit Harlem in 1913.

Kimberly Nichole, “Little Girl New” (2010): As the only act with multiple songs in “Self Made,” Nichole recorded this song before her time on “The Voice.”

Raiche, “Drive” (2019): Signed to major label Atlantic Records, Raiche released her “Drive” EP last March.

Episode Four: “A Credit to the Race”

Tiana Major9, “Altitude” (2019): London vocalist Tiana Major9 provides the opening theme to “Self Made’s” final episode. She contributed the song “Collide” to 2019 film “Queen & Slim.”

Gregg A. Allen & Larry Tuttle, “Special Night Tonight” (2017): Keyboard player Gregg A. Allen collaborated with bass player Larry Tuttle for this retro jazz instrumental fit for a party at Walker’s New York estate.

Latasha, “Who I Am” (2020): The newest song in “Self Made” closes the series. Rapper Latasha released “Who I Am” to coincide with the arrival of the Netflix series.

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Contact IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at or 317-444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.

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