Soulful songbirds N'dambi and Me'Shell Ndegeocello deserves a hand for trying to become more than just one kind of an artist in an industry where too many performers seem happy to play the game and sing one-dimensional songs for mainstream appeal. Their sound is deeply rooted in soul, but their albums are the antithesis to anything that radio and video outlets are defining todat as R&B/soul music. And these ladies are not your atypical R&B chicks -- they are honest in their songwriting and not afraid to move beyond your expectations of them.
After years of releasing albums independently, N'dambi makes her major label debut with her third disc Pink Elephant on the refurbished Stax Records label. The Dallas songbird tapped veteran producer Leon Sylvers III (Gladys Knight, BLACKstreet, Lakeside) who provides a musical soundbed that perfectly balances traditional R&B with today's contemporary sound. Retro-soul hasn't felt this good since Erykah Badu's Baduism. (Interestingly enough, N'dambi was a background singer for Erykah, a fellow Texan.)
A perfect example of that musical symmetry can be heard on "The One," which flips the late Isaac Hayes' 1969 classic "Walk On By" into a ballad about discovering her one true love. On "The World Is a Beat," the song's production is reminiscent of '80s Prince (Sign O' Times), as N'dambi sings a sour note about the music industry.
Elsewhere on Pink Elephant, N'dambi croons about the ups and downs of falling in and out of love. On the cautionary "L.I.E.," she tells the tale of a married man who is having an affair with another women across town. "What It Takes" boasts a funky guitar riff as N'dambi confides to her significant other that no matter the obstacles their love will conquer all. "Sugar don't fret, do only what you can, I promise, it won't make you less a man," she confides in him. On "Ooh Baby," she yearns for a former flame. And on the set's first single, "Can't Hardly Wait," she makes plans to kick an inconsiderate boyfriend to the curb.
N'dambi's honest lyrics on love and relationships is a revelation. Those looking for an artist with heart and soul should gravitate to Pink Elephant.
N'dambi -- "The One"
N'dambi -- "What It Takes"
N'dambi -- "Ooh Baby"