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In Her Own World

Me'Shell Ndegeocello returns with a new outlook on life


In an era where artists are lucky to make a second album, Me'Shell Ndegeocello recently released her seventh: Comfort Woman. More amazingly, she hasn't bounced from label to label. Despite earlier rumors that this album would be her last with the Madonna-owned Maverick, it now looks like the twosome will make more beautiful music together.

That's good news. Because, while Ndegeocello has never sold the numbers that record companies today usually demand, she has built a solid underground following. Ndegeocello has continually defied the odds. But, amazingly, she seems unfazed. "I'm so thankful to be able to sing, so that's a good thing," she says.

Another good thing is how she views the world. Since 9-11, she, like many other Americans, has re-examined her priorities in life. High on her list is finding an effective way to use language in her work. With her latest album, she says she wants to convey "love, comfort, joy." There are actually three songs on the album titled "Love Song" -- numbered one, two and three. On "Thankful," she sings, "just want to be happy and thankful." Meanwhile "forgiveness and love" are repeated throughout "Fellowship," which questions our religious beliefs and divisions.

"Words are fascinating," she explains. "They can be very damaging, very uplifting, very powerful. It's all left up to interpretation, and interpretation is powerful. So, it's all dependent on what everyone is coming with, what their background is, which canon they're using, you know, where they've been educated, what they listen to. And that's why I don't really think about any of these things anymore, because most things are based on a generalization: race, sex or economic. The language of it is so complicated that I just try hard to maintain myself and have my own defining factors and not those from the world."

As a consequence, Ndegeocello is mostly a homebody. "I try not to be too involved with the world," she says. "It's really hard. Literally, I just read. I'll sit in the house and read and wait for the next experience, like if I have to go on tour or something like that."

Her introverted personality is a relic of her childhood. Growing up, Ndegeocello wasn't very talkative, she appreciated quiet. "I don't talk that much. It was not until I got a record deal and had to do interviews [that I] got into the talking phase," she says. "I grew up in a very quiet household. Words are just minefields. You say things and then you're assessed by how you say them, what you said. They're quite meaningless after a while because your action is so much more important. So, I try to be an action person more than a word person."

She has managed to create a successful marriage with words and music, but it is not about the words themselves; it is about the feeling. "That's why I like poetry," she explains. "They're just conveying emotion, ideas, thoughts and it's very powerful. I guess that's why [on] this record, I wanted definitely to put out some very positive vibrations, because words are very powerful. So I just talk about love, the beautiful love I have."

And that love is amplified in Ndegeocello's music. In January, Verve will release her jazz record, Papillon: Dance of the Infidel. Cassandra Wilson, Lalah Hathaway and Kenny Garrett are just a few of the music heavyweights featured on the album. "I'm a super open person," she says. "I love to work with people."

Whatever her accomplishments, she laughs at mention of those who label her a legend in her own time." Instead, she is most content with the here and now. "I'm very much in the moment. I try not to reminisce or look to the future. I can't say which is better or worse. I'm so happy for this moment."

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