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Meshell Ndegeocello: Tiny Desk Concert

This Black Music Month, Tiny Desk is giving the ladies their flowers. We’re releasing nine Tiny Desk concerts from Black women artists, from veterans who’ve paved the way for what we hear today in Black music, to those who are carving out their own paths.

Experiencing all of the Tiny Desks this Black Music Month has made many of my dreams come true, and Meshell Ndegeocello’s performance was no exception. For 30 years, the Grammy-winning artist’s music has cast an unflinching gaze on love, race, sexuality and religion. Her new album out in August, No More Water: The Gospel of James Baldwin, zooms out to focus on the love of humanity as inspired by the writer and civil rights activist.

Her performance includes three songs from that album, starting with “Travel,” which features Kenita Miller’s swirling whispers alongside Jake Sherman’s organ and Ndegeocello’s bass, which ushers us into her church service. “Thus Sayeth The Lorde” references the writings of Audre Lorde: “If I did not define myself for myself, I’d be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” This conviction has been the binding agent of Ndegeocello’s career. Releasing her debut album at a time when many of the women who dominated Black music were singers who adopted an ultra-feminine aesthetic, as a bassist and vocalist, she gallantly eschewed that standard for androgyny, fully embracing her queer, two-spirit identity.

“Love” continues this theme, urging you to allow love to take over and accept yourself in the face of existential crisis. The final songs of Ndegeocello’s Tiny Desk Concert are fan favorites. First, we’re sent off into space with the playful “Virgo,” from Ndegeocello’s album The Omnichord Real Book. Then, she brings us back to Earth with the yearning “Outside Your Door.”

SET LIST

  • “Travel”
  • “Thus Sayeth The Lorde”
  • “Love”
  • “Virgo”
  • “Outside Your Door”


MUSICIANS

  • Meshell Ndegeocello: vocals, bass
  • Jake Sherman: organ
  • Justin Hicks: vocals
  • Abe Rounds: drums, vocals
  • Chris Bruce: guitar
  • Kenita Miller: vocals
  • Kyle Miles: bass


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Nikki Birch
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Technical Director: Josephine Nyounai
  • Host/Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Kara Frame, Mitra I. Arthur
  • Audio Engineer: Carleigh Strange
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Ben de la Cruz
  • Animation: Jackie Lay
  • Florist: Kelanda Edwards
  • Tiny Desk Copy Editor: Hazel Cills
  • Executive Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins

Copyright 2024 NPR

Corrected: June 18, 2024 at 12:54 PM EDT
A previous version of this story misstated the album No More Water: The Gospel of James Baldwin as No Water: The Gospel of James Baldwin.
Nikki Birch
[Copyright 2024 NPR]