I keeps me some Meshell Ndegeocello music on play at my house. The way she uses religious metaphor and political commentary and weaves it into this radical, seductive swirl of melody, bass and lyric always blows my skirt up and wig back. I really like her music and I like her. Like so many Virgos she’s laid back, outspoken and she wears her heart on her sleeve. Last Friday I went to see Meshell, personally known as Suhaila Bashir, do a very special midnight performance at Joe’s Pub where she performed songs from her third LP and one of my favorites, Bitter (Peace Beyond Passion is my other fave).
Rocking a pair of fly pink Cazals (that I must cop) and a simple gray oversized shirt, Meshell accompanied by a drummer and guitarist slowly and intimately played and sang for one hour and 15 minutes. She admitted that she had talked a lot during her performance the previous night and that she really did not feel like chatting much this night. “Just sing,” someone shouted from the audience to which she replied “No problem. Can you come home with me?” Her set opened with “Fool Of Me” (a song that also appeared on the Love & Basketball soundtrack, which she said she never performs and probably never will again) and from there she smoothly dipped into “Grace,” “Satisfy,” “Bitter,” “Loyalty,” “Beautiful” and “Faithful.” She ended her set with the rocked out, funked-up, “Mass Transit”– a song from her most recent and eighth album Devil’s Halo. For an encore she brought the house to bended knee by performing her smash “Outside My Door,” from her very first album Plantation Lullabies. Meshell whipped us like cream. Seriously y’all, only she could make Bitter so sweet. Just curious what’s your favorite Meshell song or album?
My favorite and best interview I’ve ever conducted was with Meshell in 2002 for Russell Simmons’ One World magazine. It looks like I will have the opportunity to interview her again. Any suggestions for questions? Holla! Below is an excerpt from that One World joint. Click here for entire read:
Me: Do you see yourself as a musical revolutionary?
Meshell: Not even that, but like, just creating some new shit, trying to be the best musician I can be. That’s where I am. I wanna eat some good food, drink some good wine. I mean, that Cristal shit kills me, ’cause if you put these motherfuckers up into wine country, they wouldn’t (hang). So call me critical or whatever; stuck-up, highbrow. That’s what’s been hard; people see me as this highbrow, sort of like weird alt-Negro. And that’s not where I come from. I come from South Beach, and I can flip that language, it’s all about me being whoever I need to be in life. But it’s this “keepin’ it real’” that’s keepin’ it real dumb, and I just can’t really be down with that. Mediocrity is celebrated. My keyboard player the other day was like, “You got these mediocre singers or whatever, people dig ‘em. But when you’re out on the basketball court, if you was just throwing up bricks, would they be hailing you?” No, they wouldn’t.
Me: You’re a practicing Muslim. What are your thoughts of the war?
Meshell: You know, I got the faith of a Christian, the seal of a Muslim, and the love of a Jew. I’m just trying to work it out for myself. Because basically, God is great; religion and people are fucked up. (laughter) It’s hard for me on this “united we stand.” Because, united we kill, murder and cheat people. My thing is, who am I to judge? To forgive is divine. Basically, you see all these people murdered in the city, and then you’re crying over some goddamn phallic buildings. So you gonna just send some other young men to go over there to kill and slaughter people? I’m not down. I’m definitely not down. Sorry. Tell me like it is. Just say there’s a lot of oil there and we need it.