Me'Shell Ndegéocello

Although Me'Shell Ndegéocello scored a few hits early in her career, the singer/bassist opted to concentrate subsequently on more challenging material by exploring the politics of race and sex, among other topics. Born Michelle Johnson on August 29, 1968 and spending the first few years of her life in Germany (her father was both a military man and a jazz saxophonist), Ndegéocello relocated with her family to Virginia in the early '70s, as the youngster developed an interest in music. As a teenager, Ndegéocello began to play regularly in the clubs of Washington, D.C., but eventually settled down in New York City after a stint of studying music at Howard University. After auditioning for several local bands (one being Living Colour), Ndegéocello struck out on her own (often performing solo, with just a bass, drum machine, and keyboard), and in the early '90s became one of the first female artists signed to Madonna's Maverick label.