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Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello performing in Washington, D.C., 2007
Background information
Birth name Michelle Lynn Johnson
Also known as Meshell Suhaila Bashir-Shakur
Me'Shell NdegéOcello
Born August 29, 1968 (1968-08-29) (age 41)
Berlin, Germany
Origin Washington, D.C., United States
Genres Funk, soul, R&B, hip hop, reggae, rock, jazz
Occupations Singer-songwriter, rapper, bassist, multi-instrumentalist
Instruments Vocals, bass guitar
Years active 1993–present
Labels Maverick, Reprise, Warner Bros, Shanachie, EmArcy, Decca, Universal, Mercer Street Records

Meshell Ndegeocello (born Michelle Lynn Johnson, August 29, 1968 in Berlin, Germany), is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, bassist, and multi-instrumentalist. Her music incorporates funk, soul, hip hop, reggae, R&B, rock, and jazz. She has received significant critical acclaim throughout her career,[1][2] and has had ten career Grammy Award nominations.[3] She is often credited for having "sparked the neo-soul movement."[4]



Ndegeocello was born in Berlin, Germany, to army lieutenant 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. In early press releases from Maverick Records her birth year was mistakenly listed as 1969. The 1968 birth date has been confirmed through a previous manager and lifelong friend.

Named Michelle Lynn Johnson at birth, Ndegeocello has had numerous name changes. She adopted the surname Ndegeocello, which means "free like a bird". Meshell Ndegeocello is pronounced Mee-shell N-deh-gay-o-chel-o. Early pressings of Plantation Lullabies were stickered with the instructions. She has changed the spelling of this name a number of times during her career; however, the correct spelling of her stage name is now Meshell Ndegeocello, without apostrophes or any unusual capitalizations.[5]

Personal life

Ndegeocello is bisexual and previously had a relationship with feminist author Rebecca Walker. She suffers from photosensitive epilepsy and is susceptible to seizures induced by flash photography when she is performing live. Her son Askia was born in 1989.[6]


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 [7] 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 Cougar Mellencamp, a cover version of Van Morrison's "Wild Night", which reached #3 on the Billboard charts. Her only other Billboard Hot 100 hit besides "Wild Night" has been "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)", which peaked at #73 in 1994. She had a Dance #1 in 1996 with a Bill Withers cover 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 "...Boyfriend". Ndegeocello sang backing vocals on the song "I'd Rather be Your Lover" for Madonna on her album Bedtime Stories.

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 and Down in the Delta.

She has appeared on recordings by Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls 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". On Zap Mama's album "ReCreation" (2009) she plays bass on the song "African Diamond".

She can also be seen in the documentary movie 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: The Songs of Dolly Parton.

Ndegeocello was also a judge for the 2nd annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[8]


Studio Albums




External links

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