As the spark that lit the neo-soul movement, Meshell Ndegeocello is the true definition of the word “artist.” Defying musical categorization and societal archetypes for women and femininity, Meshell has blazed her own trail in an industry known for its cookie-cutter sensibilities.
With 10 GRAMMY nominations under her belt, few artists can attest to have attained such widespread and long-term critical acclaim. And even fewer have brazenly fused together the myriad of stylistic variations between the worlds of funk, soul, hip hop, reggae, R&B, rock, and jazz.
Upon the release of Devil’s Halo, Meshell Ndegeocello managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Prince, “Bright, Shiny Morning,” and a few concerns for President Obama to consider.
Your eighth studio project is entitled Devil’s Halo, which is named after an instrumental track on the album. Since the title track lacks lyrics, I’m curious to know the inspiration behind the mood the song sets.
I guess it’s all about contrast, expressing evil, good and bad and that there’s a calm that comes with accepting that. That’s what that particular track for me is. It’s like a lullaby of some sort. It just acknowledges that there are shades of gray.
When I think about the album, as a whole, I think my favorite would have to be “Bright, Shiny Morning.” There’s a particular set of lyrics that resonated within me: “If I think I owe you something, get in line.” What life event led you to express that sentiment?
I’ve had lots of experiences that warrant that. It’s just the endless experience of people wanting something from you. If you had it, you’d be sure to give it, but sometimes I’m just left lost about what it is they want or feel that I owe them. I’ve had certain relationships where people feel I owe them something. And sometimes when I’m onstage, people want me to sing a song like my very first record, it’s kind of hard. They feel like I owe them something. I try to do the best I can when I’m onstage but it’s like, “Get in line.”
I really like “Die Young,” too. On the track, you say, “I always pick the wrong way. It feels like the way to go.” Do you harbor a great deal of regrets?
I’m not one for regrets, but have you had a moment where you just feel like, “My God, I just keep making the wrong choice!”? You know in your heart that it felt right at the time. Once you’re further away from that experience, in hindsight, it was the right way to go even though everyone else around you felt it was wrong. But that’s back to the Devil’s Halo and the contrast. There are shades of gray. Maybe there is no right or wrong. We’re all just doing the best we can.