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Plantation Lullabies

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Album Review

Me'shell NdegéOcello's debut album twists and turns through so many genres — R&B, pop, jazz, hip-hop — that it's hard to put a finger on just where she wants to take its 13 songs. That she also spins conventional racial and sexual identity here makes Plantation Lullabies an occasionally overwhelming — as well as a vibrantly sophisticated — listen. NdegéOcello defies labels throughout, tagging her slinking and crawling songs with a rubbery flow that's just as rooted in '70s funky soul as it is in '90s hip-hop culture. The best songs here — "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)," "Dred Loc," and "Outside Your Door" — work their way into their grooves with a seamless, and almost uniform, bounce. It can be a bit derivative (for all of NdegéOcello's genre crossing, she always seems to go back to the same musical blueprint), but most of the time it's just about as boundary-busting and as affecting as '90s R&B gets.


Born: 29 August 1968 in Berlin, Germany

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although Meshell Ndegeocello scored a few hits early in her career, the bassist, singer, and songwriter later opted to concentrate on more challenging material by exploring the politics of race and sex, among other topics. From her 1993 Maverick label debut through her releases of the 2010s for Naïve, she built a discography of recordings that defied classification through progressive mixtures of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and rock. Initially held in regard primarily for her bass playing and bold lyrics,...
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Plantation Lullabies, Meshell Ndegeocello
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