However many things you think you’re doing at the moment, MeLo-X is doing more. I swear to God that each time I log onto the Internet and go blog-fishing (which is what happens when you sit at the edge of the great expanse of the Internet ocean, clicking until something that sounds good bites you back) a new side project of this man pops up. the guy’s own homepage is subtitled ‘The Renaissance Man’, and given his specifically neo-soul, aqua-boogie focus, it’s hard not to believe him. After all, the man got his start remixing some of the best, including Maxwell, Raphael Saadiq and the late Amy Winehouse. He was hustling in areas it wasn’t even cool to hustle, getting all Questlove up in the joint before anyone was even giving him a chair at the table. A decade later, it seems like there’s so many people wanting to sit down with him that the chair still isn’t looking like an option. I’d say Cheri Coke is the latest, but this came out last year, and given his remarkable frequency as a producer and songwriter, there have surely been four other projects since then. Not in the least the fabulous record he did with Jesse Boykins III.
Cheri Coke, whose new surname just so conveniently joins MeLo’s in the ultimate hedonism double-whammy, is notable if you follow hip-hop closely enough. Back when she was called Cherri Dennis, her slinky, sexy voice was the hook on a number of new millenium Bad Boy hits, including tracks from Ma$e, P diddy and Dainty Kane. By the time they finally let her put out her own record, that ship had sailed, and so she’s made the smart move that is moving to a small, independent producer and forgetting about the majors. She’s not the only one; Solange Knowles, Skye Ferriera and many others have already teamed up with guys like Dev Hynes for budgets that probably wouldn’t even pay one A&R salary. In MeLo-X and her reinvention as ‘Coke’, Cherri was obviously hoping for someone who would let her freak flag fly. She came to the right place, because ‘The Garden Of Eden’ is a bass-pumping, breaks-propelled slice of soul that belongs more in the Janelle Monae camp than the Faith Evans one. There’s entire verses there with only a syncopated bass drum and a wall of synths, as Cherri seductively offers to snag the forbidden fruit of her paramour “Hey babe/ your fruit looks right to me baby so I’ll pick/ Maybe it’s wrong/But, fuck it…” It’s low-key and high energy at the same time, the kind of bedroom jam that actually aims for similar frequency to late night encounters. MeLo’s programmed about a hundred different sample triggers all over the place, bouncing around as Cherri finally gets her moment in the (midnight) sun.
I’m really glad that this sort of deep, strange Outkast-ATLiens-esque R&B is making a comeback, because it’s one fringe area of popular music that didn’t have enough of a moment in the sun. Overtly sexual but also inherently playful, X/Coke’s aesthetic challenges what a female siren in the hip-hop game is allowed to get away with when she’s not Lil Kim, and MeLo mellifluously moves between influences past, present and future, incorporating sonic templates from jungle, breaks and house without so much as batting an eyelid. They gave this EP out for free. Quality won’t come so cheap next time. Plug in.
X / Coke – ‘Garden Of Eden’