Our skin like bronze and our hair like cashmere

from Frank Ocean – Pyramids Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

Ancient Egyptians were an amalgamation of races — Africans, (from Nubia especially), Semitic peoples from the Near East, and Europeans (primarily Hellenistic). They are usually portrayed as having bronze colored skin and straight, silky hair.

This may be a celebration of Egyptian culture, or a suggestion that the Cleopatra-stealer is a light-skinned man — perhaps a representation of the “white man” corrupting the black queen.

This song is an entire allegory for the objectification of black women’s bodies. Ocean’s description of a black Cleopatra is not necessarily meant to be historically accurate.

By depicting Cleopatra as black woman, Ocean is rejecting the “whitening” of Egyptian culture that pervaded much of Western culture until the mid 20th century (e.g. downplaying role of Nubia in Egyptian history, the tendency of historians to attribute the success of later Egyptian dynasties to their Greek (read: white) lineage). See Afrocentrism.

Of course, the consensus held by historians is that Cleopatra was not black, but of mainly Hellenistic descent.

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