Me’Shell NdegeOchello’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”: Listen and LOVE

I’m a Me’shell NdegeOcello stan from way back—I’m talking 1993, when she was snatching boyfriends and digging folk like an old soul record on her debut album, Plantation Lullabies. I’ve never stopped loving her, either: though I’ve seen her caress her base guitar only once in concert—at New York’s SOB’s, an experience that actually made it into the first chapter of my novel, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore—I’ve happily purchased every last album she’s ever made (her Dance of the Infidel is one of my favorite jazz albums—total badass) and I own most of the songs she’s contributed to other musical collections, too, like her funky, space-aged take on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy” on Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth Wind & Fire, and of course, “Rush Over,” on the love jones soundtrack and the hauntingly heartbreaking “Fool Of Me,” the song that provides the perfect backdrop to Monica’s desperate attempt to win back Quincy’s heart with a do-or-die b-ball shoot-out in Love & Basketball.  My current Me’Shell obsession is “The Consequences of Jealousy,” the piece she contributed to Robert Glasper’s Black Radio project. It takes my breath away. You must listen.

And now comes news of the release of Me’shell Ndege’Ocello’s 10th album, Pour une ame souveraine (For a sovereign soul) – A dedication to Nina Simone— her tribute to Nina Simone. WHAT?! My girl Akilah over at Execumama pointed me over to’s exclusive preview of Me’shell’s cover of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” featuring the ever soulful and super delicious Cody ChesnuTT. And of course, I listened to it practically all doggone day yesterday. It’s beautiful. And so very perfect. And highly appropriate (unlike the incredibly nutty casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in an upcoming unauthorized biopic. I mean, I love Zoe and think she’s uber talented, but, Nina? C’mon son. *insert side-eye here*).

Me’Shell, who, along with ChesnuTT, invited guests Sinead O’Conner, Lizz Wright, Valerie June and Tosi Reagon to lift their voices on Pour une ame souveraine (For a sovereign soul),  told why she chose to honor the incomparable Nina Simone:

“[She] was unusual, unruly, unparalleled. She has an unmistakable voice and an unavoidable spirit—she’s terse and angry and expressive of her despair and her joy and her sexuality.” “She was a loud, proud Black, female voice during a time when Black female voices were not encouraged to make themselves heard.”

Indeed. Sometimes it feels like the same is true of today. Thank God we have Me’Shell NdegeOcello to help turn up our volume. I do adore her.    Pour une ame souveraine (For a sovereign soul) will be available for purchase October 9, 2012. I can’t wait to cop my copy. Listen to Me’Shell’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” below and get a free download of the song on

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. One of my favorite songs was You Made A Fool of Me!

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