At a time where it seems where every manifestation of Black self-affirmation—Black Lives Matter, Black Self-Care, Black Girl Magic—is being assailed by prickly sorts antagonized by most things Black and self-affirming, Black-on-Black love has become medicine for the melancholy, an elixir crucial to keeping the African Diaspora sane and forward-moving. Shelley Nicole—the mainspring behind Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe—is simultaneously a product, a witness and architect of Black-on-Black love, a calling that has informed all of her work as a singer, writer, composer, actor, poet, musician and a healer. It is the tap root of her latest work, I Am American, a collection of songs written by her and produced by award-winning guitarist, composer and producer Vernon Reid of the band Living Colour.
I Am American harks back to the Golden Age of classic albums that embraced collaborative energy from diverse, paramount artists. The album is forged from the connective tissue of rock, soul, blues, jazz and funk into a seamless, genre-defying blend while tackling the hard questions of women reclaiming their cultural identity, their psychic refuge and their personal agency. The project is part of the continuum of audacious, self-confident and eclectic Black sisterhood that extends from Rosetta Tharpe to Nina Simone to Betty Davis to Labelle to Joan Armatrading to Meshell Ndegeocello.
Even in these times, Shelley maintains every faith that love will ultimately prevail and humanity invariably will course-correct. Her truth – “Remember you’re connected to the person next to you. Everybody is, I am, you are, we are really just that connected. As we are all here, we are all part of one Source, Universal Life Force, whatever you want to call it. And we don’t know what’s coming beyond this place, but we are here now together, so how are we going to do this together a little better?”