Although Me'Shell NdegTocello scored a few hits early in her career, the singer/bassist opted to concentrate subsequently on more challenging material by exploring the politics of race and sex, among other topics. Born Michelle Johnson on August 29, 1968 and spending the first few years of her life in Germany (her father was both a military man and a jazz saxophonist), NdegTocello relocated with her family to Virginia in the early '70s, as the youngster developed an interest in music. As a teenager, NdegTocello began to play regularly in the clubs of Washington, D.C., but eventually settled down in New York City after a stint of studying music at Howard University. After auditioning for several local bands (one being Living Colour), NdegTocello struck out on her own (often performing solo, with just a bass, drum machine, and keyboard) and in the early '90s became one of the first female artists signed to Madonna's Maverick label.
NdegTocello's debut release, 1993's Plantation Lullabies, spawned the hit "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" and received three Grammy nominations. But it was a duet with John Mellencamp on a cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night" a year later brought the singer/bassist the most acclaim, as the song became one of the year's biggest hits. NdegTocello took an extended period before a follow-up recording was issued, but during this time, she collaborated with Chaka Khan on the track "Never Miss the Water," as well as appearing on movie soundtracks (White Man's Burden, Money Talks) and on such multi-artist releases as Ain't Nuthin' But a She Thing and Lilith Fair, Vol. 3.
A sophomore effort, Peace Beyond Passion, finally saw release in 1996, but failed to match the success of her debut. Another three-year break between albums occurred, during which time she collaborated with rapper Queen Pen on the track "Girlfriend." NdegTocello's third release overall, Bitter, was issued in 1999. She took another three-year break and emerged with Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape in June 2002. Comfort Woman followed in 2003 and Dance of the Infidel, a sprawling album made with numerous collaborators from the jazz world, surfaced in mid-2005. Two years later, her fantastic Decca debut, The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams, which included guest appearances from Pat Metheny and Oumou Sangare, was released. Her first pop-related recording in half a decade, 2009's Devil's Halo, featured NdegTocello in a quartet setting. The album also included guest spots from Lisa Germano and Oren Bloedow. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi
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