Canonized, marginalized or just scrutinized, Meshell Ndegeocello has given up trying to explain herself. After 20 years in an industry that has called her everything from avant garde to a dying breed, what unquestionably remains is the fearsome bassist, prolific songwriter and the creativity and curiosity of an authentic musical force. With that, she has earned critical acclaim, the unfailing respect of fellow players, songwriters and composers, and the dedication of her diverse, unclassifi- able fans.
Weather, Meshell Ndegeocello's ninth album, to be released on November 8th on Naïve, might be her most diverse collection of songs yet. From sunny up-tempo tunes to stormier ballads, Weather satisfies everything we've come to expect from Meshell: groove, contemplation, and singularity. Pulled together by lush arrangements, thoughtful lyrics, and a band of fearsome players, Weatherfeatures Meshell first and foremost, more intimately than we've heard her in a long time. Produced by Joe Henry, Meshell demonstrates her eclectic influences with two cover tunes (Leonard Cohen and The Soul Children) and collaborations with Chris Connelly, Benji Hughes, and Joe Henry.
Meshell Ndegeocello was born Michelle Johnson in Berlin, Germany and raised in Washington DC. By the early 90's, she had landed in New York armed with a demo recorded in her bedroom, joined the Black Rock Coalition, and was soon signed to Madonna's label. Her records, 8 to date, have offered lyrical ruminations on race, love, sex, betrayal, God, and power, and she has simultaneously embraced and challenged listeners with her refusal to be pigeon-holed musically or personally. Meshell has been both celebrated and berated for her politically charged lyrics, sexual boundary crossing, and for choosing the road less traveled - a winding adventure through her own musical ambitions rather than the industry formulas.
A vast array of influences have informed all of her albums, including Devil's Halo, and there are traces of her native go-go, hip hop, rock, R&B, new wave and punk in each. Each album has been a step away from the last, each used as a chance to investigate and integrate new sounds and ideas, and fans have been treated to everything from the deep-funk of Plantation Lullabies to the raw and confessional Bitter to the hip-hop loving Cookie. Possessed with instrumental gifts as diverse as her interests, Meshell composed, arranged and produced a jazz record in 2005.
A bass player above all else, Meshell brings her signature warm, fat, and melodic groove to every- thing she does and has appeared alongside the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan. As for her own bass-playing influences, she credits Sting, Jaco Pastorius, Family Man Barrington, and Stevie Wonder. Meshell was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Bass Player maga- zine and remains one of few women who lead the band and write the music.