Meshell Ndegeocello

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Meshell Ndegeocello
MeShell NdegeòCello (222557) (cropped).jpg
Ndegeocello performing in 2016
Background information
Birth nameMichelle Lynn Johnson
Also known asMeshell Suhaila Bashir-Shakur
Me'Shell Ndegéocello
Born (1968-08-29) August 29, 1968 (age 54)
Berlin, Germany
OriginWashington, D.C., United States
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, rapper, musician
Instrument(s)Vocals, bass, keyboards, drums, guitar
Years active1992–present
LabelsMaverick/Reprise/Warner Bros, Shanachie, EmArcy, Decca/Universal, Mercer Street/Downtown, Naïve

Meshell Ndegeocello (/mɪˈʃɛl əndɛˌɡˈɛl/ mish-EL ən-deg-AY-oh-CHEL-oh; born Michelle Lynn Johnson on August 29, 1968) is a German-born American singer-songwriter, rapper, and bassist. She has gone by the name Meshell Suhaila Bashir-Shakur which is used as a writing credit on some of her later work.[2] Her music incorporates a wide variety of influences, including funk, soul, jazz, hip hop, reggae and rock. She has received significant critical acclaim throughout her career,[3][4] being nominated for eleven Grammy Awards, and winning one.[5] She also has been credited for helping to "spark the neo-soul movement".[6]


Ndegeocello was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in West Berlin, Germany, to US Army Sergeant Major and saxophonist father Jacques Johnson and health care worker mother Helen. She was raised in Washington, D.C. where she attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Oxon Hill High School.

Ndegeocello adopted her surname, which she says means "free like a bird" in Swahili. Early pressings of Plantation Lullabies were affixed with stickers to help pronounce her name. The spelling has changed in the hands of record labels a few times during her career; the correct spelling of her stage name as of 2001 is Meshell Ndegeocello.[7]


In 2016 at Cosmopolite Scene in Oslo

Ndegeocello honed her skills on the D.C. go-go circuit in the late 1980s with the bands Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence.[8] She unsuccessfully tried out for Living Colour's bassist position, vacated in 1992 by Muzz Skillings. Going solo, she was one of the first artists to sign with Maverick Records, where she released her debut album, Plantation Lullabies. This recording presented a distinctly androgynous persona.

Her biggest hit is a duet with John Mellencamp, a cover version of Van Morrison's "Wild Night", which reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Her only other Billboard Hot 100 hit besides "Wild Night" has been her self-penned "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)", which peaked at No. 73 in 1994. Also in 1994, Ndegeocello collaborated with Herbie Hancock on "Nocturnal Sunshine," a track for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time magazine.

She had a No. 1 dance hit in 1996 with a Bill Withers cover song called "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?" (briefly featured in the film Jerry Maguire) as well as Dance Top 20 hits with "Earth", "Leviticus: Faggot", "Stay" and the aforementioned "If That's Your Boyfriend.. Last Night)". Ndegeocello played bass on the song "I'd Rather be Your Lover" for Madonna on her album Bedtime Stories. Ndegeocello was also tapped, at the last minute, to perform a rap on the same song. This came after Madonna and producers decided to remove Tupac Shakur's rap (which he did while he and Madonna were dating in 1994), after he had criminal charges filed against him. Ndegeocello also performed a rap on Chaka Khan's single "Never Miss the Water", from the album Epiphany: The Best of Chaka Khan, Vol. 1, released in 1996. The song reached #1 on Billboard's Dance Club Play Chart and #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart.

Her music has been featured in a number of film soundtracks including How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Lost & Delirious, Batman & Robin, Love Jones, Love & Basketball, Talk to Me, Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls, The Best Man, Higher Learning, Down in the Delta, The Hurricane, Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom, and Soul Men.

She has appeared on recordings by Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti, and The Blind Boys of Alabama. On The Rolling Stones' 1997 album Bridges to Babylon she plays bass on the song "Saint of Me". On Alanis Morissette's 2002 album Under Rug Swept, she plays bass on the songs "So Unsexy" and "You Owe Me Nothing in Return". Also that year, she appeared on Gov’t Mule’s record The Deep End, Volume 2, playing on a cover of The Staple Singers’ song "Hammer And Nails". And in 2009, she appeared on Zap Mama's album ReCreation, playing bass on the song "African Diamond".

She can also be seen in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, singing The Miracles' "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and The Temptations' "Cloud Nine". In the late 1990s, she toured with Lilith Fair. She also did a remake of the song "Two Doors Down" on the 2003 release Just Because I'm a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton.

Ndegeocello was also a judge for The 2nd, 12th, 13 and the 2015 14th Annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[9]

Her song "Tie One On" was chosen as the Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week on February 23, 2010.[10][11]

In 2016, she provided the theme song, "Nova", for the Oprah Winfrey-produced show Queen Sugar.[12] She also collaborated with French-Cuban duo Ibeyi in the song "Transmission/Michaelion" for the album Ash reciting a poem by Frida Kahlo.

In December 2016, the world premiere of Ndegeocello's Can I Get a Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin, a new theatrical music and art work, was held in Harlem, New York.[13]

In June 2021, The Beatles Channel on Sirius XM Radio began broadcasting A Shot of Rhythm and Blues: Exploring The Beatles and Black Music, a four-part series hosted by Ndegeocello.[14][15][16] The series explores the relationship between the English rock band the Beatles and the black musicians that inspired them.[14][15][16]


In 2002, Ndegeocello collaborated with Yerba Buena on a track featuring Ron Black for the Red Hot Organization's tribute album to Fela Kuti, Red Hot and Riot. Proceeds from the album went to various AIDS charities, per the Red Hot Organization's mission.

In June 2010, she contributed a cover of U2's "40" to the Enough Project and Downtown Records' Raise Hope for Congo compilation. Proceeds from the compilation fund efforts to make the protection and empowerment of Congo's women a priority, as well as inspire individuals around the world to raise their voice for peace in Congo.

In 2010, Ndegeocello contributed to the essay anthology It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller in the vein of the It Gets Better Project.

Personal life[edit]

Ndegeocello is bisexual and previously had a relationship with feminist author Rebecca Walker. Ndegeocello's first son, Solomon, was born in 1989.[17] Since 2005, she has been married to Alison Riley, with whom she has a second son.[18] She identifies as an atheist. [19]



Year Album Chart positions


1993 Plantation Lullabies 166 35 100
1996 Peace Beyond Passion 63 15 30 46 100
1999 Bitter 105 40
2002 Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape 67 21
2003 Comfort Woman 150 43
2005 The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel 9 127
2007 The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams 186 60 92
2009 Devil's Halo 185 64
2011 Weather 37
2012 Pour une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone 46 190 117
2014 Comet, Come to Me 161 22 194
2018 Ventriloquism 86 62


Year Title Chart positions Album


1993 "Dred Loc" 86 Plantation Lullabies
"If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" 73 20 23 79 74
"Outside Your Door" 113 41
1994 "Call Me"
"Wild Night" (with John Mellencamp) 3 18 34 Dance Naked (John Mellencamp)
1996 "Who Is He and What Is He to You" 34 1 80 Peace Beyond Passion
"Leviticus: Faggot" 15
"Never Miss the Water" (with Chaka Khan) 102 36 1 59 non-album single
1997 "Stay" 67 15 Peace Beyond Passion
1999 "Grace" Bitter
2002 "Pocketbook" (featuring Missy Elliott, Tweet and Redman) 116 Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape
"Earth" 29
2006 "The Article 3" (EP) non-album single
2007 "Lovely Lovely" The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams

Other appearances[edit]


  1. ^ Green, Tony (March 2002). "Joi: Star Kity's Revenge (Universal)". Spin. p. 129. Retrieved January 23, 2021 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Layman, Will. "Me'Shell Ndegeocello: The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidels < PopMatters". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Lecaro, Lena (October 24, 2002). "Head, heart and soul". Los Angeles Times. pp. E–12. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  4. ^ "Grammy Nominations For J J Cale, Bettye LaVette and Meshell Ndegeocello – Just Announced". News, December 2007. The Rosebud Agency. December 6, 2007. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  5. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello to Perform at 'You Rock My Soul' GMHC Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall on November 11th". NY Rock. August 14, 2002. Archived from the original on April 8, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Yarbrough, Kenya (August 9, 2002). "Me'Shell Ndegeocello: One Tough "Cookie"". EURweb. Rabercom Enterprises. Archived from the original on April 7, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  7. ^ "". March 3, 2001. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  8. ^ Wiltz, Teresa (June 19, 2005). "Meshell Ndegeocello Breaks Step With Pop". The Washington Post. pp. N01.
  9. ^ "Past Judges". Independent Music Awards. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  10. ^ Heringer. "Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Meshell Ndegeocello - Tie One On". Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  11. ^ Heringer. "Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week list". Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "Queen Sugar Soundtrack". What-Song. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Harlem Stage to present the world premiere of Meshell Ndegeocello's 'Can I Get a Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin,' December 7–11". The Stage Review. November 29, 2016.
  14. ^ a b PR Newswire (June 1, 2021). "Celebrate Black Music Month on SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher with Exclusive Music Channels, Streaming Stations, and an Original Podcast". Associated Press. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  15. ^ a b ""A Shot of Rhythm and Blues: Exploring The Beatles and Black Music" on The Beatles Channel". Archived from the original on June 9, 2021. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  16. ^ a b "Explore the connection between The Beatles & Black music during a new SiriusXM series". Sirius XM. June 7, 2021. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  17. ^ Zwerin, Mike (February 23, 1994). "Me'Shell - Debut on Madonna Label -". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  18. ^ DiGuglielmo, Joey (November 10, 2011). "Meshell's magic". Washington Blade. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  19. ^ Byrd, Craig L. (July 11, 2019). "Meshell Ndegeocello Unplugged and Unmasked". Retrieved August 10, 2022.
  20. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: US". Billboard. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  21. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: US R&B". Billboard. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  22. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: US Jazz". Billboard. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Peaks in Australia:
    • Peace Beyond Passion and "Wild Night": "Me'shell Ndegéocello – Peace Beyond Passion (Album)". Retrieved October 10, 2021.
    • Plantation Lullabies and "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)": Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (PDF ed.). Mt Martha, Victoria, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 199.
  24. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: Belgium". Ultratop. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  25. ^ "Discographie Meshell Ndegeocello". (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  26. ^ "Discographie Meshell Ndegeocello". Swiss Hitparade. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  27. ^ a b "Meshell Ndegeocello: UK". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  28. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: US". Billboard. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  29. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: US R&B". Billboard. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  30. ^ "Meshell Ndegeocello: US Dance". Billboard. Retrieved September 6, 2021.

External links[edit]