Meshell Ndegeocello Credit: Charlie Gross

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Can someone please give Meshell Ndegeocello a Grammy already? The ten-time nominee, also known as Meshell Suhalia Bashir-Shakur, has forged a distinctive and idiosyncratic path since her 1993 debut Plantation Lullabies. The singer and multi-instrumentalist has also become known for her social activism, and she’s contributed work to compilations, tributes, and anthologies including AIDS-research benefits from the Red Hot Organization, a compilation album devoted to empowering women and promoting peace in the Congo called Raise Hope for Congo, and an essay about her experience as a bisexual woman in Dan Savage’s anthology aimed at LGBTQ youth, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. Ndegeocello’s music career started off with a bang—in the 90s her eminently personable, delightful neosoul incorporated hip-hop, reggae, pop, folk, jazz, and world elements—and over the decades her sound has evolved, grown, and been reinvented many times over in challenging and surprising ways (and might be even more widely known and lauded were she a straight white man). The material on 2014’s Comet, Come to Me is sparse and haunting, while her presence is intense and commanding, and last March she released her 12th album, Ventriloquism, on the Naive label (a portion of the proceeds benefit the ACLU). She’s always excelled at reinterpreting others’ work, and on Ventriloquism she reworks 80s and 90s hits by iconic artists including Janet Jackson, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Prince, TLC, and George Clinton with a scientific precision, lovingly dissecting and investigating well-loved songs such as Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” from the inside out.   v