Every so often, a musical soul emerges from the underground with the inescapable talent; artistry and charisma that marks the arrival a gathering storm. Pink Elephant is the Stax Records debut from N’dambi, a songwriter with emotional purpose and rare honesty. The striking vocalist, pianist and composer from Dallas, Texas, known for her signature afro and fiery style, possesses the intuitive perception and powerful creativity that ensures an essential contribution to modern R&B and soul.
N’dambi’s storytelling skills are in peak form on Pink Elephant with tunes like the Rod Temperton influenced, ’80s hip-hop flavored “Nobody Jones,” the story of a girl with big dreams who won’t let her humble beginnings stop her, and the delicious saga “L.I.E.,” a tale of a man living a double life along New York’s Long Island Expressway. Delusions of love spring up in the old school love-gone-wrong melodic funk of “Daisy Chain”; “Ooo Baby” is the smooth-grooving tale of reconnection with a former lover; while the blues-inflected “Imitator” finds a young woman suffering over the collapse of her lover’s promises. “You’re not the man I used to know, you’re an imitator,” she sings on this mid-tempo urban gem. The hope of true love cries out in “The One,” a disarming, jazz-tinged ballad kissed with a touch of classic Stax. The album’s lead single, “Can’t Hardly Wait,” is a biting chunk of scorching sarcasm delivered in the commanding singer’s rich tone. Her opening complaint, “I don’t know why I keep f***in’ wit you,” perfectly expresses the inability to turn a listless love loose. Take a listen:
Pink Elephant was recorded in Santa Monica, California, with producer Leon Sylvers III, whose credits include Shalamar, Gladys Knight, The Whispers, Blackstreet, Lakeside and many more. N’dambi insisted the record have a modern sheen yet adhere to the sturdy influence of classic R&B and soul artists like Slave, Heatwave, Michael Jackson, Betty Davis, Isaac Hayes, Smokey Robinson, and The Sylvers. That led her to The Sylvers’ famous producer, big brother, Leon.
Blessed with a deep contralto, she became especially enamored with male singers from the ’70s and ’80s. The funky soul of the Bar-Kays’ Larry Dodson, the sophisticated syncopation of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and the notorious abandon of the Ohio Players’ Sugafoot influenced her heavily. Later, the mysterious, uninhibited imagination of Nina Simone and Mahalia Jackson also became musical and cultural touchstones. N’dambi sang back-up and collaborated with fellow soul seeker Erykah Badu, all the while honing her artistry and slowly building a fiercely loyal fan base that resonates with the organic, authentic approach to her life and music.
On Pink Elephant, N’dambi ingeniously distills soul-deep inspiration into a sensual style of elegance and power, making her a fundamental new addition to the Stax legacy.