Women’s History Month #1: Me’shell Ndegeocello

I have been extremely busy, overworked, and also really bored with blogging lately, so I am gonna do some more fun blogs that don’t follow the press. So being Women’s History Month, I am gonna focus most of my posts this month on Black women, but particularly Bisexual, Lesbian, and Transgender Women in politics, film, music, academia, etc. I am beginning this series with Me’shell Ndegeocello.

I first saw Me’shell Ndegeocello in 1993, when BET was premiering the video Dred Loc,” the fisrt single from her debut album, Plantation Lullabies. I was in love, and immediately left the house to try to find the CD, which I believe is one of the best and most innovative records of that decade. It was a time when soul music from the UK–artists like Caron Wheeler, Carleen & Jhelisa Anderson and the Brand New Heavies (though lead singer Ndea Davenport is from the States)–were producing the better soul music than was coming out of the States. And Plantation Lullabies (alongside Joi’s Pendulum Vibe and Dionne Farris’ Wild Seed, Wild Flower) signaled the return of dyanmic, cutting edge, and complex soul music to the US.

As a bassist, lyricist, singer and emcee, she has released 5 studio recordings that are totally Me’shell, and yet completely different in terms of sound, subject, and approach. Hip-hop, Soul, Jazz, Funk, Folk, Rock, Gospel, Reggae and Punk are just some of the genres she’s unflinchingly dived into on each of her releases. And oftentimes many artists who “switch” from the style they normally play sound forced or even ridiculous. When she raps on “Hot Night” with Talib Kweli, she sounds like a hip-hop artist (and sometimes just as misogynist), and when she sings on “Sloganeer: Paradise,” she sounds like a punk rock artist without question. Though not a superstar, Me’shell is definitely a legend who’s influence on music will continue for years to come. There were too many videos of Me’shell on Youtube, but I selected the 1996 Leviticus: Faggot, written for a friend of hers who died from a gay-bashing.

New Jill Scott, Meshell Ndegeocello, Rahsaan Patterson, Chaka Khan Today!

Today should be declared official National Neo-soul day! Why? Because all the kids are releasing records today–Chaka Khan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Rahsaan Patterson, & Jill Scott. I haven’t heard any of them in their entirety, but as soon as all my consulting gigs that owe me money pay up, I’ll be able to hit the record stores, and pay some bills too! But in the meantime, I thought I’d hip you to some of the latest music out today by 5 of my favorite artists…

Chaka Khan, FUNK THIS. I think this is going to be interesting. Chaka signed to the new Sony label Burgundy Records for older artists who aren’t gonna compete with the Rihanna’s of the world. But the album is straight funk.

“The album may remind people of my early Rufus albums because I’m in a similar ‘soul space.’ I’ve been on a little journey in the last few years, finding Yvette again.” (Referring to her birth name) “I went through a period of being insecure. I’m walking a different path now. I’ve changed. This album is different from any other album I’ve recorded because it reflects what I’m about, who I am now. The album is called, ‘Funk This!’ because it’s funky!”

The collection includes fresh renditions of Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times”; a duet with Michael McDonald on “You Belong To Me,” a song he co-wrote with Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies’ Man,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Castle Made Of Sand,” the soul classic “Foolish Fool” and Rufus medley of “Pack’d My Bags,” and “You Got The Love.”

FUNK THIS original’s include “Disrespectful,” the tour-de-force duet with powerhouse Mary J. Blige, a poignant poetic ballad, “Angel,” the acoustic “One For All Time” penned by Chaka and Terry Lewis, the deeply beautiful and soulful “Will You Love Me?” and self affirming “Super Life” among others.

I think this CD is gonna be great from the four singles on the Chaka Myspace page, so I suggest you pick it up!

Meshell Ndegeocello, The World Has Made Me the Man Of My Dreams. You gotta love this one for the title. It’s my new theme as of late. The album is Meshell’s first vocal record since 2003’s Comfort Woman, and it has that type of feel to it (from the track sample’s I’ve heard), with some more punk rock influences. It sounds like a typical Me’shell, boundary-breaking, luscious, sad, music to get nasty to.

Canadian Free Press says:

Meshell Ndegeocello’s “The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams” sounds like the soundtrack to a dream, a poem with a punk aesthetic, coated with thick as honey sensuality and dripping with religious, social and political imagery.

She harnesses her magic like a master, gently coaxing the listener to trip out as she pulls you deeper inside her mind. The power is in both what she says, and how she makes you feel as she says it.

Rahsaan Patterson, Wines & Spirits. Listening to the sample tracks on Amazon, I am certain this to be my favorite Rahsaan Patterson album. It’s his fourth studio recording (though he has another project with Australian musicians called Sugar Rush Beat Company) and it is his most inspired, most interesting on the porduction tip, and takes his brand of soul (I consider him a male Chaka Khan vocally) to a whole new level. This one is a keeper.

Eurweb says:

Easily his most eclectic and diverse album to date, only a pioneering talent like Rahsaan could pull off a CD that’s all over the map both musically and vocally. “Wines & Spirits” begins with “Cloud 9,” a super funky tune with uncharacteristically minimal vocals, and ends with a brilliant, masterful cover of the Janis Ian classic “Stars.”

In between, there are a couple futuristic dance tracks (“Delirium (Comes and Goes)” and “Deliver Me”), a Prince-esque, ultramodern rock cut called “Pitch Black,” a hip-hop track complete with emcee, the retro-gospel song “Oh Lord (Take Me Back),” and a few “vintage Rahsaan” midtempo grooves (“Feels Good,” “Higher Love,” “Stop Breakin’ My Heart,” and “No Danger”) included for good measure.

Jill Scott, The Real Thing, Vol. 3. The newly divorced Jill Scott is coming full force on her new record, which she calls her most honest. I love the first single “Hate On Me” and the new single “My Love.” So far, I think I am also gonna dig the new one. I am having trouble locating a review of it yet, so I can’t really give you more. Lucky for you, Jill has video about the making of this album on You Tube that’s definitely worth every minute.

Go get em ALL!!!