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April 10, 2002 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-10

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ARTS-

The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 10, 2002 - 9

Me'shell Ndegeocello speaks on life and
times of 'Cookie' in revealing interview

By Devon Thomas
Daily Arts Writer

Me'shell Ndegeocello is one of
modern music's most underrated
artists. She's fringed along the pop
margins for almost a decade, creat-
ing a string of classic albums. She is
an unabashed artist who doesn't
compromise her art for huge record
sales, nor does she cater to the
devices of the mainstream. A multi-
dimensional singer, songwriter,
musician and producer, Ndegeocello
is one of the last of the true "revolu-
tionary soul singers." Often consid-
ered to be the predecessor to the
current Neo-Soul boom (a la Jill
Scott, D'Angelo, Maxwell), her
music is innovative yet nonconform-
ing. She is an artist who would much
rather blind listeners with a message
than "bling, bling."
Controversial in her subject mat-
ter, but always real, Ndegeocello
talks exclusively with The Michigan
Daily from the Chelsea Hotel in
New York about her life, politics, the
human condition, the "gay" thing,
the upcoming tour and her forth-
coming studio album Cookie: The
Anthropological Mixtape, released
on June 4.
The Michigan Daily: What's
behind the title of your upcoming
album Cookie: The Anthropological
Mixtape?
Me'shell Ndegeocello: There's a
song by Stevie Wonder called "Mis-
stra Know It All." Tyrone Cookie
Goldberg is the modern day Misstra
Know It All. He reflects the record
industry as I see it, as this sort of do

anything, do whatever you can to
make money. That's how I came up
with the title. Also, there's a great
book by Oliver Sacks, which influ-
enced me to look at my life "anthro-
pologically." I'm also from the
generation where my friends made
mix tapes all the time. That's how
you kept up to date with informa-
tion, and I wanted this record to
have that vibe. Hopefully, people
who are afraid of Napster will see.
My album is a "mix tape." I want
you to copy it for your friends and
let them check it out because that's
communal, that's life.
TMD: The larger themes of your
first three albums dealt with race,
spirituality and love, respectively.
Would you say your newest album is
an amalgamation of all three?
MN: Yes, it's the last chapter in
the memoir. It sums up everything I
was thinking. My album discusses
where I am in my life now. It's just
trying to figure out where I fit in the
world.
TMD: Your album was created
almost a year ago but still hasn't
been released. Do you feel about the
numerous pushbacks it has faced?
MN: Yeah, somebody blew up
some buildings, made things diffi-
cult, but I understand. Everything
happens for a reason and you can't
really question it because that's how
you create your own suffering. I'm
sure I could get upset my record
wasn't coming out, but instead I
wrote more tunes. It's hard, but I just
have to believe waiting was good.
TMD: In a song on your new
album you say we're "suffering in a
world trade paradise," which is iron-
ic since you wrote this album
months before the Sept. 11 Attacks.
MN: Yeah, I did. That was kinda
deep for me. I think that definitely
hampered ("Hot Night") from being
the first single. I'm fine though. Peo-
ple are going to hear it regardless.
TMD: Name some artists you're
currently into.
MN: The Anti-Pop Consortium is
probably one of my favorite groups
right now. System of a Down is
incredible. I listen to a lot of old
stuff, old BDP. I'm listening to a lot
of Miles Davis, but more of his
eclectic things with Jack Dejohnette.
I'm totally a Dead Pres fanatic. I
just bought the Tweet record and
love it. I buy music all the time; I try
to listen to everything.
TMD: Your work rarely gets
played on MTV, BET and VHl are
you disappointed by that? Would

you try to cater to them?
MN: Not really. It's cool. Those
are just marketing tools. I'm an
artist. I want to make art. I don't
want to be a flash in the pan. It's not
who I am. I just do what I do - it's
really that simple. I can only hope
for the best. People will find the
record and have found it. I just try to
be confident in those things.
TMD: Threaded within your
album is spoken word, rock, R&B,
soul, go-go, etc. How would you
label your music?
MN: Oh, I don't. Labels wouldn't
really work for me, and I think we're
finding out it doesn't really work for
the world.
My grandfather's Irish, so am I
just black? Am I just this? I listen to
all kinds of music, so you can't real-

idea of revolution" and no longer
holding that to be true. Explain.
MN: One day I woke up and I
really started to be a critical thinker.
I read more deeply into things. To
me, the best history books are nov-
els more so than nonfiction. It really
tells you the historical facts and
events more than any history book
because this is a person who's trying
to supplant his idea into the world
through the novel. I had this idea:
There's never going to be another
Malcolm X or a Martin Luther King
-- there's too much fear involved.
Most of our black leaders are mur-
dered. There's not going to be a
JFK; the political thing is under
wraps too much, that can't happen
in today's society. I saw this incredi-
ble documentary about Bob Marley

Courtesy of Rolling Stone

Me'shell rocks hard here, with a wee bit more In the follicle.

your new album.
MN: Yeah, I think we're all just
trying to figure out how to be
decent human beings. Something hit
me one day: We're all suffering.
Everybody. There is no hierarchy in
suffering. None. For example, the
little white kid who brings home his
black friend and his father goe,s
"why'd you bring home that nig-
ger?" Imagine the suffering that
white child is going through when
his parent just embarrassed him and
treated him hardly. Everybody is
suffering. The white man with a
million dollars, who has everything
in the world, is probably suffering.
Once you get out of this idea that
"oh, no one's suffering more than
me," or "black people, they've got it
so hard," everybody is suffering,
everyone.
TMD: In a recent interview you
were quoted as saying, "race is per-
formative" and "gay is dead."
MN: Yeah, "gay shit," that shit is
dead. It doesn't even really exist
anymore. It's totally defined by
white gay males. I'm sorry, I can't
really understand why there's a dif-
ference between who I love. Now, if
I'm going out and getting my dick
sucked in bathrooms the problem is
not that I'm gay, the problem is the
shame I feel that makes me do that
because if you're heterosexual and
doing it, that's a little problematic.
We get wrapped up in this rhetoric
of "you're gay and you're sinning"
- that's absolutely ridiculous. We
all want to be loved. When you're
80 and your sexual thing ain't work-
ing, the most important thing is are
you with somebody you love and
like to have a conversation with and
is going to be there with you
through the transition. I don't harp
on it anymore. People say my career
"got messed up because I was gay"
- No. I'm just a human being -
and people didn't "get" my music.
No, that is bullshit.
TMD: So you don't accept label-
ing yourself black or gay?
MN: Yeah, of course I'm black

because that's all anyone else knows
on this planet is that I'm black. But,
I'm kinda tired with black history
and "we were slaves" - I need a
new story, you know. Talk about
Cornel West, Lorraine Hansberry
and all the great writings of our
time. Let's talk about Bayard
Rustin, a gay man, he put together
the 1964 March on Washington.
Let's talk about Basquiat. Let's talk
about Miles Davis and Prince and
all their great innovations in life.
I'm kinda tired of the "we were
slaves" and "oh, it's so hard" and
reparations, reparations for what?
Everybody is suffering. Everybody.
You can't pay back suffering, you
can't reparate -that's just absolute-
ly ridiculous.
TMD: What do you think about
affirmative action?
MN: I'm not versed enough in
the political aspects of affirmative
action. But I did read, "Losing the
Race," by John McWhorter, it's a
fascinating book that tries to chal-
lenge what it is we are holding onto.
It's just a shame that a lot people of
color can't afford to go to a univer-
sity. That's the real issue. I'm not all
about giving favors, but if there's a
muthafucka whose mind is ready for
college and he literally can't go just
because he can't afford it, that's sad
and that's an America problem. It's
funny, we judge people by their edu-
cation and intellectual prowess, yet
you can only evolve your mind and
tap into the canon of education if
you have enough money.
TMD: What is the main reason
you're still apart of the music indus-
try to this day?
MN: 'Cause I'm an idiot
(laughs). It's just what I do. I have
the best life in the world. I ain't got
no Bentley or no house, but I'm far
from poor and really, really far from
being rich. I was sort of ignorant. I
just wanted to make some records, I
didn't want to be a star. I just want-
ed to make music. That's why I'm
still here, because I have an outlet
that allows me to do so.

Curtes f oligSone

Ndegeocello cracks a grin.

ly put me in the black demographic.
Those concepts are limiting. You
can't easily define people - I'm a
mother, I'm a writer, I'm a human
being. Our psychology is too vast to
give ourselves one label that sums
us all up.
TMD: On your album you talk
about being a "revolutionary soul
singer." Define it.
MN: Aretha Franklin was a revo-
lutionary soul singer. The original
revolutionary soul singer though
was Roberta Flack. I'm trying to
make music we can make love to
and hang out, but I got to tell you
what's going on with the peoples.
"Revolutionary" I feel is a misused
word. To me, I'm using it as
"revolving." I'm a revolutionary;
I'm revolving around a particular
moment and providing a social cri-
tique.
TMD: On your new album you
sung about having a "romanticized

and it was amazing. He said the
messiah we're all looking for will
not be of the flesh, but of the mind,
and until you can persuade people
to change their frame of min,d there
will always be suffering. That's why
I said that. I realized that revolution
begins within one's self. You find it
when you realize all that's good
can't be taken away from you. If
they can take it away from you, it's
probably not worth having.
TMD: What's your take on the
state of music in general?
MN: It's on its way up. On June 4
(her new album's release date),
music is definitely on its way up!
(laughs)
TMD: What's on your mind right
now, how do you feel right now?
MN: I feel good. I cut on the
news and get a little worried about
the world though.
TMD: You talk a lot about race,
and same-sex relationship issues on

Courtesy of George Mason University
Underrated, sexy and wearing a tie.

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