Words fail, but feelings are always there for you, a color looking for a canvas. Ink could run tidal trying to describe the music of MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO (Michelle Lynn Johnson, aka Meshell Suhalia Bashir-Shakur, born 1968) — hip-bop, spoken psalm, the multiversal supercollision of Jimi Hendrix and Alice Coltrane — but nothing tells the story like the story itself. Soul music was never more literal, and song structure never less limited — tapping the ocean of longing behind the most innocent popsong and the novas of anger in the most passing mass-rebel protest, in jazzy sonic murals and sharp three-minute rituals, her songwriter’s eye is like a prism for the infinite, her melodic instincts sailing nebulae and snapping visions so unheard of they have to be sung to be described. Grooves to pump blood by and textures that levitate you out of this world and ones yet undiscovered. Fevered songscapes of cultural isolation (urban, foreign — feelings with too ready names) and sublime verse trances of the rejoicing triumphant other (Black, Sapphic — useless, containing words) finding one Other more, sharing the awareness that there’s always another in each of us. The works used to stretch out like interstellar voyages, now they phase in and away like those dreams we’re told we really only have for a few seconds but seem like a forever and stay with us for years — putting herself out on the frequency of the collective waking wish of broken barriers and found soulmates and coming back with the cheers and cries we’ve never put names to but have always known by heart. Words fail, but feelings conquer everything, and some leaps can be taken so faithfully that you never have to land.
READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–73).