Album Flashback #22 // Plantation Lullabies - Meshell Ndegeocello (1993)

For most casual listeners, the first time they came across Meshell Ndegeocello was during her cameo on Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album on the track I’d Rather be Your Lover. But before that seminal cameo Ndegeocello was rocking her own vibes on the still peerless Plantation Lullabies. With a title as darkly cast as it is, it’s no surprised that the music has a deep socio-political core that informs the music more than you’d imagine.


For most casual listeners, the first time they came across Meshell Ndegeocello was during her cameo on Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album on the track I’d Rather be Your Lover. But before that seminal cameo Ndegeocello was rocking her own vibes on the still peerless Plantation Lullabies. With a title as darkly cast as it is, it’s no surprised that the music has a deep socio-political core that informs the music more than you’d imagine.

This could perhaps be best summed up by the visual cue in the album booklet that observes ‘alternative hiphop is dead silence’. Twenty years and a bit after this albums release there’s no denying that there is more than a ring of truth to that. After all, is not hip hop at its core a reaction to the history of race relations and appalling treatment of human beings? Whatever the intended message, it’s hard to deny that the whole album in rooted in the history of black soul and underpins its politics with a humanist message.

Second track proper If That's Your Boyfriend is an overt and musically aggressive piece that deals with a man stealing situation perhaps familiar to some of us. The rest of the album introduces the funky themes and now trademark lyricism against the perceived 'white is right' culture. But if the idea of such music puts you off, don't let it for the album , as previously stated, is a political one but one that also includes many more traditional topics too. Love, togetherness, loneliness and more fill the album with relatable but still political songs.

Standout tracks include the piano infused Two Lonely Hearts(On The Subway), the hip hop and jazz mixing Step Into The Projects and Soul On Ice, which mocks the black guys ignoring their 'black sisters' and choosing to go out with white women instead to avoid themselves. Indeed with lyrics such as the refrain 'illusions of her virginal white beauty dancing in your head' it's easy to take the wrong idea of bitterness but these observations are wrapped in music so cool it makes you almost not notice. In fact, this is the type of music we should be hearing everywhere, questioning the world’s ideas and where they came from. All is balanced out though with songs such as Call Me, opining 'when you you want me baby just call...I'll rush right over and talk to you' and the bass and piano backing this makes it a love song one can listen to as if it isn't. Already much to recommend and deservedly so! 

There is plenty to get your teeth into if you like good music, good, intelligent lyrics from an artist with a particularly androgynous outlook that makes for a perfect listening experience. The reversed sleeve is also a nice touch. A recommend for Plantation Lullabies to all fans of genuinely good and interesting music is the word here. In fact, if you love Prince you'll probably dig this as well. There are many more albums in her catalogue to sink your musical teeth into and be prepared, for they are all quite different to this album, which is slightly more commercial in its sound than follow up Peace Beyond Passion and anything beyond which have ventured into pure Jazz, funk, hip hop and more.

(Sebastian Gahan)

#SRCZ – Culture is everywhere…