To some, N'dambi is one of the most promising new singers to arrive in the past decade. Unfortunately, for too many people N'dambi may be the best singer they've never heard of.
The Dallas native grew up in a singing family and began to perform and play the piano at a young age. But it was her close association with neo-soul trailblazer Erykah Badu that first brought her to the attention of the music world. She appeared as a background vocalist on Badu's seminal debut album Baduizm and co-wrote "Hey Sugah" from Badu's Mama's Gun.
N'dambi then went from backing singer to indie soul trailblazer, self-releasing her debut album, Little Girl Blues in 1999, and selling over 70,000 units -- an incredible number for an independent album. She followed it with the successful Tunin Up & Cosignin, an eclectic album that mixed up genres but always had that voice, a mesmerizing alto, as the centerpiece. The two discs were popular in America, but also earned for N'dambi a loyal following in both Europe and Asia. In fact, it was in Japan where N'dambi released her third album, 2005's A Weird Kinda Wonderful, which didn't hit the states until three years later.
In 2008, N'dambi signed with the reborn Stax label, and the combination seemed like a great fit. Even better was the word that she would be working on her Stax debut with legendary producer Leon Sylvers III (the Whispers, Shalamar). The result was Pink Elephant, a career triumph and one of the year's best discs.
N'dambi's official biography says that she "aims to make timeless music that lyrically endures the industry paradigm of one-hit commercial sensationalism. Music that successfully transitions across genres. Music of soul, heart and substance that N'dambi celebrates with the same conviction and surrender exemplified in her striking photo on the cover of Marc Baptiste's "Beautiful": Pure, honest and free." We couldn't say it better.
By Chris Rizik