Meelah who is best known as the lead singer and one-third of the Platinum-selling 90's R&B group 702 that brought the music world top forty hits such as "Steelo", "Get It Together", their feature on Missy's "Beep Me 911" and breakout top five ladies anthem, "Where My Girls At?", returns with her latest singles "Desert Love" & "Now You're Mad" available on all digital music platforms. I caught up with Meelah to discuss her upcoming long-awaited debut solo album, motherhood, return of 702, Unsung, State of R&B and more...TERRANCE: You released your latest single “Now You’re Mad”, so update us on that and other forthcoming projects.
MEELAH: "Now You're Mad" is a song I recorded while I am in the studio working on my solo debut album. I released "Now You're Mad" and "Desert Love" over the course of two months really to just put something out there for the fans to hold everybody over because it's been taking me oh so long to record this album. I just kind of wanted to test the waters and show the fans that I appreciate them for waiting on little ol' me and also feedback as well. I thought, let's put two out there and kinda just see what catches what demographic and go from there. I'm definitely making sure that I do something for everybody. I'm trying my best to be versatile, so those two songs I feel are not anywhere near the same but yet still me. I’m really kind of a chameleon of sorts when it comes to everything I do, so I definitely wanted to make sure my music is given to people with a little versatility.
TERRANCE: Can you share any producers or guest features you’re working with on the album?
MEELAH: So far I’ve worked with a lot of up and coming producers. J-Trx is a producer who I met here in Atlanta and he’s the one that did, “Now You’re Mad” and “Desert Love”. Super dope producer and writer as well. I mean, he’s so talented and when it comes to versatility he definitely embodies that and that’s why he and I just clicked because he can do every genre. We meshed and just had such great chemistry in the studio. I’m working with Kennard Garrett who I worked with on my children’s album We Are Different. I’m really happy about that because he and I since 2012 created really cool songs and magic. I’m working with TC who has written for Brandy and he’s done a lot of Tamar’s stuff. He and I have been working for a few years now as well. He did “Stupid In Love” which I already have out on digital platforms, so we’re no strangers in the studio. We’re working on some new stuff and I just love his style and his vibe and we co-create really well, that’s like my little brother and I’m always excited to work with TC. Of course I’m working with Musiq Soulchild, not necessarily a duet but we will definitely have a song or two that he produce and we write together. We do have really cool chemistry sonically, so that’s always fun to look forward to. As far as features, none yet but I won’t say there won’t be any.
TERRANCE: How has motherhood changed your perspective as a woman?
MEELAH: I think being a mom opens you up to just finding that inner fighter in you and just that inner hustler in you. You just really realize and recognize how strong as a person you really are. For me, it’s made me want to go harder and tap into all of my gifts because I want to be able to show my son and lead by example that he can do anything. My son has special needs, he’s autistic and I want to be that person to show him that you can beat the odds no matter what diagnosis may be put on you. You can still be your best and do whatever God put you on this Earth to do. It changed me in that regard and as far as a woman, I want to challenge and surprise not only myself but him. Just push, push, push the envelope and be the best Meelah I can be. I’m not a spring chicken no more, T (laughs). Like okay, I’m really truly a woman now.
TERRANCE: One of the biggest surprises in music came last year with the return of 702 after 15 years. What prompted this reunion?
MEELAH: Well, I reached out to Irish and LeMisha back in 2016 because I just hadn’t spoken to them since my son was born in 2009 and that was very brief. I haven’t been around them or spent any time with them since our last album in 2003 outside of the untimely and unfortunate death of their sister Orish in 2008. Life is just way too short and I wanted to reach back out to them because 8 years had gone by since their sister passed and I just wanted to know how they were doing and what was going on with them. So I reached out to them and we weren’t really thinking about getting together for any business, we generally just wanted to reconnect, rebound, re-establish our sisterhood because at this point we were all mothers and grown women, so it’s funny how life works and how God’s timing is. I literally flew out to Vegas in 2016 just to meet them and they came to my hotel and we chopped it up and we had a good time and picked up where we left off. Then here we are a year later on the red carpet in November 2017 at the Soul Train Awards in Vegas. We did that and after that came the Unsung opportunity. I don’t know what’s going to happen or what else is going to transpire, but I do know we’ve at least started to perform together again. We’ve done three shows thus far in Atlanta, New York and D.C. and we will be in Louisiana for the Essence Festival and we’re just pushing through man. There’s a lot more dates on the calendar, so God is good and I’m grateful. We’re still healing and trying to figure it out day-to-day because it’s a process and after so much time passing by we’re learning each other all over again. We’re grown women now (laughs). That’s another layer of Meelah which I’m grateful for. I’m able to do my album and reconnect with 702 and work with my non-profit organization for Autism Awareness and so I’m just trying to keep myself busy.
TERRANCE: You mentioned Unsung. How did it feel to track your journey and to tell your story?
MEELAH: It’s bittersweet but still grateful, humbled, flattered and honored that a show such as that would even deem you worthy to tell your story especially when you’re an avid watcher and viewer and fan of the show. You learn so much about your idols and inspirations and it’s like, oh wow, you’re telling my story? You’re almost in disbelief, so I’m grateful for that but then it’s like you got to start from day one. It’s different when you’re a solo artist and have an Unsung and I’m not discrediting having to revisit the past but having to relive stuff and reopen and reignite some of those wounds and see things resurface and whatnot, that’s touchy and creates a little hesitancy, you know? I didn’t know I would be ready for Unsung two years ago when I was approached when I did R&B Divas on TVOne and fast-forward I went ahead and said, okay I’ll try it, let’s go for it. I’ve seen the edit that will be shown to you all and it’s like, wow this is what was captured over the span of three albums in 55 minutes or less and having to share it with two other women? It’s not easy because you feel like that’s not how it happened and that’s not what was done and that’s not what I said and that’s not what I meant. But I’m grateful to TVOne for giving us the platform and hopefully it will open up doors for bigger and better things and introduce us to a demographic and crowd that maybe we’re not even privy to or aware of who you are, so yeah looking at the glasses half full (laughs).
TERRANCE: Were there ever any initial reservations about doing Unsung knowing how social media might react or view you all?
MEELAH: Absolutely. I already know somebody going to have something to say about me, about Irish and about Misha. I mean, it’s social media and the world we live in. I felt my story wasn’t exactly the way I wanted it to, I still know somebody is going to have something to say. It is what it is and so you sign up for that when you agree to do those type of shows, so either take it or leave it. I’ve put myself out there and I’ve already done it. It is what it is and I can’t change it as much as I would like to go back and edit and cut and paste and it’s not even about editing, for me it’s about truth. I would like to go back and edit their edit (laughs) and let my truth be told, but I’m not in the control room so I don’t have no control over that. It is what it is and hopefully like I said, something bigger and better will transpire from this Unsung episode.
TERRANCE: What are your views on the current state of R&B vs. when you first came on the scene?
MEELAH: Well, of course it’s much different. We live in a more digital world, imagery world and social media world where people have more accessibility to just come on and say whatever they want on your timeline as if they know you or know your scenario, your life, like they truly are your family or friend. I don’t think it’s solely about just true talent now. You don’t have to sing your face off and do all of these vocal acrobatics. Now you can just look cute and have a body type and two bundles of 29-inch weave and you’ll be alright (laughs). If your numbers are high on social media, you put out a catchy record with some auto-tune on it, then you good to go, so it’s a little different for sure. We did have to work a little harder I think back then when we were recording. There was no cutting and pasting, no melodyne and no auto-tune. We had to sing the first hook, the second hook, the last hook, the bridge, we had to really re-sing these things. We didn’t have the technology there is now so it’s different but it’s okay that things have evolved. I’m definitely not one of those artist that’s a Bitter Betty, it is what it is, you evolve with the times and you go with it. It’s no different from how I’m sure our parents viewed our music and how my music sounded to my parents. I'm sure it was different from the process when they were coming up in the 70's, so it's all good.
TERRANCE: A while back, R&B songstress Lyrica Anderson & Wiz Khalifa sampled “Get It Together” in their song “Freakin”. What are your thoughts on this generation embracing the 90’s sound?
MEELAH: That’s always flattering and humbling and it feels really good. History repeats itself so it’s no different from when the Kanye’s and P. Diddy’s and all of these amazing people sampled music. We’ve all sampled at some point as artists, producers and musicians. I’m glad that these kids are realizing that it’s not just all about them and their sound and they’re doing their homework and I think that’s dope.
TERRANCE: If you could give advice to a 17-year-old Meelah getting started in the business, what would it be?
MEELAH: Speak your mind, don’t let anybody run over you and use your kindness as your weakness. Make sure you let people know that you do have a voice other than singing (laughs). Speak up and let people know you ain’t no punk.
TERRANCE: Anything else you would like to add?
MEELAH: Those were some really great questions, T. Thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
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