Meshell Ndegeocello Breaks Step With Pop
She says she started music late, at 14 or so. (Well, okay, she did play
the clarinet in elementary school.) Her big brother played the guitar.
She figured she’d play the bass. She picked it up, started noodling with
it. It felt good. In high school, she joined up with a go-go band
called Prophecy, and started gigging with them after the bass player
didn’t show up one day. She loved it, adored go-go, the rollicking beat
of D.C.’s “indigenous music,” the primal drum feel of it all. She also
played with Little Bennie and the Masters and Rare Essence. There she
was, pounding on her bass, a rare female presence in testosterone-soaked
go-go, jamming at clubs, some of which have come and gone: Black Hole.
Breeze’s Metro Club. Cherry’s Skating in Southeast.
She went to Howard University, mostly because her brother went there
and, at 17, she wasn’t ready to leave home. But Howard wasn’t a good
fit. She says she couldn’t navigate the social terrain, couldn’t make
her way around the profs in the music department. She lasted less than a
Paint her academic defection against the backdrop of a lonely girl
trying to come to terms with being bisexual. As she said in a 2000
concert at the 9:30 club, back then she was “giving it to every Tom,
Dick, Harry, Jane and Sue, so … I could feel like I was really
here.” Hers is music as memoir, boasting about stepping out with other
women’s men and crowing about it, as she did in her first single, “If
That Was Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night”), and then cataloguing
the hurt of young love, crushing on girls who didn’t return the favor. [Read More]