Crush Of The Week: Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello. Photo credit: Charlie Gross. Via

Meshell Ndegeocello. Photo credit: Charlie Gross. Via

It’s Pride Month, and I want to kick it off by feting a queer Black woman who’s a truly underappreciated musical genius: Meshell Ndegeocello.

Where can I even start? I’ve loved Ndegeocello, who self-identifies as bisexual, since her Grammy-nominated debut album Plantation Lullabyes back in 1993, when Madonna signed the multi-instrumentalist and singer to her Maverick record label. Between her bass playing (she tried out for the band Living Colour back in 1992 but didn’t get the gig, though she was a part of the Black Rock Coalition co-founded by the band’s guitarist, Vernon Reid), her come-to-me smoky voice, her gender-bending outfits, and (at the time) bald head, I swoonily followed her through her musical universe as she had some shooting-star hits, like her cut “Wild Night” with John Cougar Mellencamp and “If That Was Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night),

but more interestingly, the constellation of collaborations and genres she traversed as she tries to navigate the nexus of love and spirituality and sexuality, like this gorgeous same-gender loving song, “Mary Magdalene,” from her second album Peace Beyond Passion,

and “Aquarium” (featuring The Brazilian Girls’ Sabina Sciubba and Didi Gutman and jazz musician Ron Blake from The Spirit Music Jamia: The Dance Of The Infidel)

as love, sexuality, and spirituality collide with systemic oppression, as in “Leviticus: F****t” from Peace Beyond Passion (TRIGGER WARNING: Homophobic violence):

Her own beyond-definition music — people have called her the female version of Prince and she herself has stated that he’s one of her greatest influences — has led her to appearing on albums as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissette, Chaka Khan (for which she and Khan received a Grammy nod in 1997), Zap Mama, and The Blind Boys of Alabama. She has also played at the all-women musical tour Lillith Fair and the H.O.R.D.E. tour. She’s also contributed music to the Red Hot series, the albums to help raise funds and awareness to help end HIV/AIDS (specifically Red Hot + Riot and Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool), and to Downtown Records’ now-unavailable Raise Hope For Congo, a compilation record to help raise funds for “protecting and empowering Congolese women in light of the war-related mass sexual violence in the nation. And her genre-mixing is cited as creating the afro-boho universe called the neo-soul movement.

And, whatever else I feel about sex columnist Dan Savage (which involves a lot of direct laser side-eye about his racial and gender politics), this musical goddess lent her writing to his anthology It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, And Creating A Life Worth Living.

I can wax on about the Berlin, Germany-born, Howard University-educated artist and mother. But I’m going to end with my all-time favorite cut: Lalah Hathaway’s and her can’t-touch-it perfect rendition of “When Did You Leave Heaven?


Andrea Plaid is the associate editor of the award-winning race-and-pop-culture blog Racialicious. She is also part of The Feminist Wire’s editorial collective and an associate producer of renowned web series Black Folk Don’t. Her work on race, gender, sex, and sexuality has appeared at On The Issues, Bitch, AlterNet, and RH Reality Check. Her work has been reprinted at, among other online sites, Penthouse, and New American Media. Her writing also appears in the anthology Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, edited by Jessica (Yee) Danforth and Corset Magazine.

This post originally appeared on! Republished WITH PERMISSION, MOTHERF*CKERS!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Andrea Plaid

Andrea has written 1 article for us.


  1. LOL… so… I was happy to see Meshell on Autostraddle because I love her music and she is one of my top most played artists on my Then I read more and what do you know, my video is on here, the song Mary Magdalene, yes, I put that video collage together… trippy o_0

  2. This is fantastic. She is simply spectacular.

    “Love You Down” is my personal favorite of hers as of late.

  3. She has been my crush since I first realized I was “not like the others”, circa 1992-93. Her beauty and her soulful wit seem to never fade or falter. Thanks for posting this Andrea!!

  4. now i’ve had “if that’s your boyfriend” in my head all day, it’s like 1993 up there

  5. Every single sentence in this article was just like, more and more and more reasons why she’s so accomplished and the best ever. Like bam wow bam bam wow wow MUSIC bam MUSIC!

  6. Oh man I had the biggest crush on her when I was a baby queermo. Perhaps it’s time to restart that crush…

  7. The only thing I know Meshell from is her song in that scene in Lost and Delirious where Jessica Pare and Piper Perabo are doin’ it.

    I feel like I should follow up on this, huh? Thanks for the great article!

    • Ummm NO. That’s how I heard of her. Talk about not being subtle with a song choice but it was still perfect.

  8. My mom LOVES Meshell, so I grew up listening to her, but I never knew she was queer! Awesome!

  9. “If that’s your boyfriend” is so perfectly 90s. Love it. That bass playing is super hot. I totally melted over “Mary Magdalene” Wooow… I’m going to download all of her music now.

  10. Me’shell Ndegeocello always struck me as an artist who was way before her time. It’s probably the reason why she was so under-appreciated. In this day and age of Lady Gaga,Janelle Monae, Katy Perry,Rihanna and company she doesn’t seem that all out of place.

Comments are closed.