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About Meshell Ndegeocello
9 Grammy nominations. Four albums. More than a dozen soundtrack cuts. Nine years of electrifying live performances worldwide. Immeasurable kudos from musical idols and peers. Countless musical offspring. Still, Meshell Ndegeocello remains an underground phenomenon, the artist everybody knows, the artist every musician studies, but the artist that seems unattached to the lure of commercial success. “I just make beats,” she says, “I play my bass, express myself, search and that’s it. Whatever else does or doesn’t come with that in terms of the way people respond, that’s cool. Bottom line, it’s got to be sincere and its got to be funky. The rest, I can’t f*ck with.”
The socially conscious Meshell Ndegeocello constantly continues to push boundaries with her brand of sophisticated mix of sweet, raucous, and deeply personal rock, jazz, funk, soul.
Mother of neo-soul, Meshell Ndegeocello celebrates the release of her new record, Comfort Woman, on October 14, 2003. The album, her 5th on Maverick, blends Meshell’s patented deep soul with reggae and intergalactic psychedelia. “It’s a love record,” Meshell says.
Born in Berlin, Germany and raised in Washington D.C, Meshell adopted the name Ndegeocello as a teenager, which means, “free like a bird” in Swahili. She discovered her musical gift under the tutelage of her father, jazz saxophonist Jacques Johnson. Self taught on the bass, guitar, keyboards and drums, Meshell became a permanent fixture in the go-go clubs of D.C. and was soon courted by several labels, including Prince’s Paisley Park imprint. In 1993 she became the first Female artist signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records and, shortly thereafter, burst onto the grunge-rock dominated music scene with her groundbreaking, genre busting debut, Plantation Lullabies. With memorable tracks like “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” and “Outside Your Door,” Plantation Lullabies earned her three Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist, and Bassist of the Year from Bass Player Magazine (the first woman to win that honor).
Meshell’s next two efforts, Peace Beyond Passion and Bitter went on to garner four more Grammy nominations and wide critical acclaim. Her live performances — powered by her all-star band consisting of Oliver Gene Lake on drums, Federico Gonzalez Peña on keys, Allen Cato on guitars, David Dyson on Bass and K’Alyn on vocals — have become legendary. A prolific writer with over 200 unreleased songs, non-album Meshell tunes have appeared in films such as The Hurricane, Batman & Robin, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Down in the Delta, The Best Man, Higher Learning, White Man’s Burden and Love Jones. She has also scored films (A Time for Dancing, 2001 and Disappearing Acts, 2000) and composed for dance companies (Winifred B. Harris Dance and Trajal Harrel Dance). In the course of her career, Meshell has worked with artists such as Prince, Lenny Kravitz, John Mellencamp, The Rolling Stones, Indigo Girls, Alanis Morissette, George Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Steve Coleman, Marcus Miller, Chaka Khan, Scritti Politti, Vanessa Williams, Eric Benet and Madonna. Though ever defying categorization, Meshell’s style and sound definitively paved the way for new soul singers such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Alicia Keys and Glenn Lewis.
On Tuesday, June 4, Maverick/Warner Bros. Records released Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape a fervently awaited fourth. The first single “Pocketbook,” rich with alluring tones and unabashed eroticism, has been remixed and produced by two-time Grammy winner, Missy Elliot and Rockwilder. The sultry track features rap superstar Redman and background vocals by Tweet, a Missy Elliot protégé.
With its finely tuned lyrics and resonance, Cookie boasts an eclectic array of contributors including Caron Wheeler (Soul II Soul), Lalah Hathaway, Marcus Miller and Funkadelic guitarist Michael Hampton. Highlights include the socially conscious track “Hot Night” which contains politically insightful verses featuring Talib Kweli and a throbbing beat too penetrating to ignore, and “Trust” a sexually explicit love song, not for the faint of heart.
With sold out shows, press reviews and wide-spread industry excitement leading up to the release of “Comfort Woman”, Meshell seems to be on the brink of going from underground icon to “cha-ching” selling artist. In Meshell’s words, “Sure, that would be great, but will it matter if I’m not a good person? That’s really all I’m trying to do with my imperfect ass– just trying to be a good person.” She smiles, “And, if I’m funky in the process, bet.”