It’s hard not be impressed by the ambition of this debut; NdegéOcello seems to want to do everything within the R&B spectrum and, at times, it feels like she might succeed. She’s like a female Terence Trend D’Arby with more of a jazz and hip hop influence and a better sense of rhythm but with a a little less musical ambition.
Her melodies are pretty catchy and, despite the length, I’d say there’s probably enough catchy material on here to merit the length.
But this is a record called Plantation Melodies and I think that title sets up an impression in the listener before we’ve even put the record on. That impression is that this record is going to be Political with a capital P. And it is, on some tracks. But it’s also not – like so much Hip Hop and Hip Hop adjacent music, the lyrical themes inevitably stray to sext (track 3, in fact) and NdegéOcello’s politics when it comes to sex are, depending upon your point of view, either very, very progressive or regressive. I saw a few quotes from interviews which back up the feeling I get that there’s a little bit of regression in her sexual politics, at least in 1993. And it’s kind of hard to take the rest of it seriously when she’s pairing social comment with songs about how she’s so damn sexy she’s going to steal your man away from you.
Like virtually all R&B that has been made since the 1960s, this record is too slick for me, though it is at least interesting (credit that to the hip hop and jazz influences). Unlike some R&B influenced by Hip Hop, this record feels like it was incorporating really contemporary stuff, rather than jumping on the bandwagon five years too late.
On the one hand, I’m kind of impressed. But this is not my thing and so that positive impression is basically an intellectual one. On the other hand, if you’re going to title your record Plantation Lullabies, I think you have to lean into the social comment more, and more fiercely at that.