[Music] Meelah: Giving It to You
Imagine our excitement in the opportunity to interview Meelah from R&B Divas! To say I love her music is quite the understatement. I've honestly been following Meelah since her days in 702, even before "Steelo" when they were featured on This "Lil' Game We Play" by Chicago quartet Subway. R&B fans immediately took to the girls, and the rest as we say was history.
Unknown to anyone at the time, It would eventually become her-story! 702 enjoyed worldwide fame and success from two top-selling albums, and had the opportunity to tour the world and do just what they loved. The fun and fame definitely came with a price. A conglomerate of surmounting issues led to the girls separating following the underwhelming success of their third album, "Star". Rumors were swirling that Meelah was the cause of it all. With the group now dissolved, Meelah was left to pick up the pieces and move forward as a solo artist.
Of course, life was happening all at the same time. Throughout the years to follow, Meelah began a relationship with musician Musiq Soulchild. They were blessed in their union with a beautiful son. Meelah would soon learn that her son was born with a form of Autism. In this exclusive Q&A, you'll learn first hand how her son's diagnosis has become not only the biggest blessing in her life, but also the lives of other special needs children and their parents. Meelah takes us into her hectic world, which includes advocating for special needs and Autism through her new foundation P.R.O.U.D. (Parents Reaching Out to Understand Development Delays), and marketing & promoting the release of her new solo album. By far, it's not easy. Matter of fact, it's hard as hell, simply put, but somebody's got to do. Meelah definitely seems up for the challenge. She's been making so much noise out in the community and people are surely recognizing. She will soon be honored by Beauty In Beauty Out for her contributions to Autism research and for the help she's been able to provide. We talk about all of that, plus we get the scoop on R&B Divas: Atlanta, her new single with Musiq Soulchild, and the possibility of rekindling that Missy & Timbaland flavor that 702 was so connected to (ok...I was really begging for that one..lol).
At any rate, you don't want to miss out on this interview.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Good morning to you and thank you so much for your time this morning. This is huge for me because of who you are, but I’ve been a huge fan of your music since the beginning, so I truly appreciate you.
Meelah: Oh wow, thank you so much. I appreciate that and you for having me.
Urban Grandstand Digital: There's a number of things I want to cover in our short time today. I most definitely want to touch on your foundation, your cosmetics with Revel, R&B Divas and reality in general, and your new single and pending album.
Urban Grandstand Digital: So to start, I find myself listening to your music almost daily, especially when I’m running. I’m playing Steelo, Where My Girls At, and Beep Me 911. How does it make you feel that the people from our generation are still following, and twenty years later, they’re still listening to those songs from you? Like, my son is eight, and even he is hip to it now because I play it so much. I feel like my parents sometimes in the sense that maybe I can’t let go of the past (laughing), but I’m truly stuck in that Missy-Timbaland-702 era. So how does that make you feel?
Meelah: Well first of all, let me just say thank you so much. My gratitude is infinite. I really appreciate you just keeping it going, and allowing your son to be privy to that era. it’s something that he can continue on with his generation. It’s kinda cool. It makes me feel great, and very humbled. I count my blessings. I’m appreciative to people like you, and to God for allowing me the opportunity to have that moment with 702. The fact that people can still rock out to it and run on the treadmill to it (laughing). That makes my heart smile. To have been a part of something like that, it is nothing short of amazing.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I thought Star was so underrated in the sense that there was such a lack of promo from the labels. Why do you think there was so little promotion?
Meelah: Now that I don’t know. You’d have to find Kedar Massenburg and ask him. I don’t know. It’s very disappointing when I think back to that time. I do recall that being one of my primary concerns, making sure this album got the promotion and marketing that it needed and deserved. I just recall feeling like, listen..this is an excellent body of work and I hope that the label does they're job, but they didn’t. I don’t know why. I think maybe it was a budget thing. Maybe we had exceeded our budget paying out the big bucks to the A-list producers. Pharrell blessed us with “Star” and “I Still Love You”. It was really a good record. But you know how it goes though. When you hit that budget, the label is like OK it’s a wrap. I guess it was maybe a financial thing. It saddened me, but hey, life goes on.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Looking at the history of girl groups, when they part or go their separate ways, there’s always one person who catches the fire and storm. They get the blame. Why do you think it was directed to you? Not even that it was true, but the word was always that the group is splitting because you wanted to go solo. Why does that come back to you?
Meelah: Well in the history of groups period, you’ll find that whomever the lead singer is, they catch that flack. I think that’s inevitable that the front person, if you will, catches that. It’s sad and unfortunate, because there’s always so much more. If people would take the time to think about the breakdown of 702, I came into the picture with 702 after it was already formed. They were a family group. Here comes this girl out of nowhere, and all of a sudden she’s designated the lead singer. I don’t even know if that was originally the plan, but song after song after song…I was doing lead. There were songs that were done before I came along, and all of a sudden my voice was put in place of someone else, so naturally, that in itself is going to create tension and animosity. Then voila, I’m suddenly the lead singer. Then it’s like, the demise of 702 is her fault because she wants to be solo, and that’s just not the case. I was put into a family group and I went through a lot of stuff, but I’ve taken the high road all these years, and chose to continue to be political about it. People don’t know the real reason why 702 only had three albums. I don’t dwell on the past. I’m grateful for now, and I’m grateful I still have an opportunity to use my gift. So that’s what I’m doing.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I think we all appreciate you taking the high road, and we will talk about that very road when we get around to R&B Divas Atlanta
Urban Grandstand Digital: But I hope at some point, we do get that full story about 702, just because I follow…
Meelah: I’ve talked about it, and I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but to clear my name, and so people understand that Meelah didn’t leave the group to go solo, I do at times go into it. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter though because people are going to think what they want to think anyway.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Exactly
Meelah: We had two successful albums, and the third one could have been just as big. It didn’t happen that way. It’s either third time’s the charm, or three strikes and you’re out. That album was the third strike for me, and I’m just like, hey, I get to do it all over again by myself. The girls aren’t pursuing music anymore. I’m still pursuing music, and I’m just grateful that I’m able to do so.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Now moving beyond all of that, I remember going to a Faith Evans show, and you were doing backup. What brought that experience on?
Meelah: At the time, we were under the same management umbrella, and it was just like, we don’t want to give this check to somebody else. Why not keep it in the family. Hey, why not! That’s how that started. It’s still music, I’m still singing and dancing, and I’m getting paid.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I want to use this as a segway into your foundation. You've been very vocal about your son being diagnosed with Autism. How hard was it for you to make the decision of sharing that with the world? You have so many critics, and people with things to say and opinions.
Meelah: It was very hard. It took a minute. I’ve been approached to do reality tv for quite some time, and I kept passing up the opportunity. i wanted it to be the right platform. I wasn’t always sure that when I did choose to do reality my son and his condition would be at the forefront or be mentioned at all. I didn’t know if I wanted to do that because some things you do want to keep private. But after praying it out, and seeing the bigger picture and understanding my purpose, I realized that he is the way that he is so that I can share because I do have this platform. I’m happy I made the decision. I feel that God blessed me with my son to be able to encourage and uplift other parents. It’s not about just singing and selling units. I realize that in my daily walk and being a human being. It’s more than being platinum. It’s a bigger purpose now. I thank God that I see that. So I made the decision, and I realize that it was a good thing. Yes, people are going to have something to say. But I get so many people that come up to me randomly, and I forget sometimes. They walk up to me and thank me for sharing my story. I have so many people on social media sharing their stories about their special needs children. Some parents have more than one special needs child. You just realize like, wow, you feel like you’re going through so much, then here’s all these other stories that make you say wow. My son is going through just a percentage of what some other parents’ children are going through. It just really touches me. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to establish my foundation P.R.O.U.D. (Parents Reaching Out to Understand Development Delays). It’s like, it’s breath-taking. I try to respond to everybody on social media about their children. For me, I sleep so well at night. Forget all the negativity, like, the fact that these parents thank me, and say I motivate and encourage them, it speaks volumes.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I think it’s definitely very encouraging, even for me, and I’m not dealing with a special needs child. I do have several friends who are, and one in particular is going through so many struggles to get assistance and be able to move forward and work. It’s so much for her, so I can only imagine. But seeing you not only deal with it yourself, but then take the time to help and encourage others, it’s nothing short of encouraging.
Meelah: Well thank you. Like you said, getting assistance and having people to understand and see the things you see is tough. Thankfully, I’m in a position that I’m not on a fixed income and I have a support system, but it’s still tough. These things are expensive; the bills. the services, the private sessions your children need for their development. It’s costly. Insurance or no insurance, it’s a lot. I want to help in any way I can. I want to do stuff for parents to just let their hair down. It’s a lot. Then with working parents, I can only imagine. It’s not easy. And although I may not have a 9 to 5, just getting back out there and promoting myself as a new artist pretty much, it’s a struggle. It’s not easy. Having to win the people over as an artist and then be a special needs mom on top of it. Making sure he’s good because he’s my number one, it can be very trying, but now I’m doing it all for him. I’m good. I have my days where I’m tired of the hustle, but God didn’t bring me this far to give up.
Urban Grandstand Digital: How does the average family get involved with your foundation? Is it based out of Atlanta, or Vegas since that’s where you’re from? How does someone across the world needing that support get involved?
Meelah: Right now it’s based in Atlanta. It’s very new. I’m really new to this. I’ll be honest. It’s in the making. I’m now putting together a team that specializes in non-profit. I’m very new to this, but I’m doing everything I can to make it a global operation. There are children across the nation that need assistance. I’m looking forward to doing more in my home city of Las Vegas. Right now, I’ve only had one event in Atlanta. I have something coming up called “Walk in My Shoes” which i’m doing here in Atlanta. It’s basically me sharing and giving back to special needs moms. I would like to include the dads, I got something else for y’all, but’s it’s about the moms right now (laughing). So I’m giving away shoes, brand new shoes, and shoes that I’ve worn maybe once or twice. I have over a hundred pairs of shoes and they’re just looking at me (laughing). So it came to me, and I just want to give back. I know it’s not easy, and we have a lot of single moms doing this. I respect their struggle, and the name [Walk in My Shoes] just came to me. The idea was literally and figuratively that people don’t think, or understand the magnitude of raising a special needs child, so before you open your mouth to judge, walk in my shoes.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I appreciate you elaborating on the concept of it all.
Meelah: Yes, i’m definitely doing things annually, but also throughout the year for both the parents and the kids. I just want to do my part. All the proceeds go to Autism research, and any and everything we can get and donate to special needs parents who may be on a fixed income and just need a little assistance.
Urban Grandstand Digital: So moving forward, let’s talk about R&B Divas. How did this all come about for you? Obviously, you had the connection with Faith Evans and her being one of the creators.
Meelah: Yes, but actually, it had nothing to do with her though. One of the EP’s (executive producers) approached my management and myself about the show. My manager, Cory Taylor, brought it to me and at first, I was a little iffy because it was reality TV, but the more I thought about it, it made sense to do something capturing the lives of singers and what we have going on, as opposed to being something ratchet USA (laughing). But as you know with reality TV honey it’s going to be a little bit of drama. That’s what entertains the people I guess. That’s what brings the ratings. I will say that at this point in my career, I need some type of television platform. Let’s just be honest. That’s just what it is these days, especially if you’re an artist like myself that came out a while ago, and hasn’t been on the scene. It’s like free advertising. It’s kinda like a new record deal. Reality TV, that just is what it is. I just wanted to make sure I did the right thing. I said OK, I’ll go ahead and give it a try.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Getting back to that high road…I think a lot of people can appreciate you taking the high road a lot.
Meelah: It’s hard…(laughing)
Urban Grandstand Digital: But you still present yourself in a classy and dignified way. I know you watch reality TV like everyone else. It’s so much drama, and a lot of it is so unnecessary. You just get the feeling that people are not taking advantage of the platform in the way that it was designed.
Meelah: Exactly. Listen…I’m not perfect. I’m not here to judge. I can’t point fingers at who is doing what and how they do it. Clearly, I haven’t been 100% at all the decisions I’ve made in my life, however, it’s not always easy. Unfortunately, these shows are designed to sometimes put you in uncomfortable situations. R&B Divas wasn’t necessarily scripted per se, but there are times you’re faced with things you wouldn’t do in your real life. and you have to figure out how to mix and mingle and intertwine and make it work for you. I’m human, and I do have a sassy and fiesty side. I do have a side of me that sometimes just wants to snap (laughing), but that’s just me being human. I realize at the end of the day that I’m not a reality star. I’m a singer who has sold millions. I’m doing this for my music, to brand myself, and to create an empire. I don’t want to be the next chic that’s punching, throwing blows and bottles and wildin’ out. I don’t have time for all that, I have a kid. You know, and I’m not the only one on TV who has a kid, but for me, that matters. It’s kinda crazy James, because you know, I’m a little bit boring for reality TV according to what these folks want to see (laughing)….
Urban Grandstand Digital: But you’re really not though (laughing)…
Meelah: Well, you know, it’s crazy. It’s a political game. It’s a game, you just got to know how to play it. I’d rather be boring than be crazy and doing foolish things.
Urban Grandstand: I agree with that. I think though, that one of the best things about this season is the new music that you have out there. I mean, we got three singles this summer. So it makes me think the album is right around the corner. Is that true?
Meelah: The album is definitely around the corner. It’s been around the corner for 5 years (laughing), but it’s definitely around the corner now. Yes, I’m just such a perfectionist, and I’m so picky. First of all, the climate of the industry is so different. every time I’m putting something out i snatch it right back, I just feel like I want it to be right, and genuine and pure. I want it to be good quality music. I keep going back in the lab, but I think it’s a good thing.
Urban Grandstandstand: So can you enlighten us on the single you have with Musiq Soulchild?
Meelah: Yes, it’s called “Give It to You”, We shot a video for it a couple of months ago to give people a visual. I’m really excited about it. We co-wrote it together. We were in the studio just vibin' out. He was helping me get back in my groove, if you will. We were experimenting together. We did seven songs, three of which were duets. Of the duets, that was just the one. It was something special about it. The more I listened to it, I felt like it was a single. It feels good. We wanted to show the evolution of Meelah as a grown woman, yet have appeal for the youth so it won't be too Urban AC. You know, I don’t want to be too old lady (laughing). You know the kids today are a mess. I want it to feel good and be sensual and sexual. Clearly, there’s connection with Musiq and myself, so we wanted to build on that, be classy and tasteful, but still be about love making, and still enough groove for the youth to bob their heads and it be current.
Urban Grandstand Digital: There’s a lot of people who are really feeling that track, and they’re looking for that album to follow. Do you see that happening this year?
Meelah: Lord, we already in October. The plan was to break y’all off before 2015. If not a whole album. at least an EP. I feel like I owe the fans at least that before 2015. I’m really excited. I’ve been working with Musiq of course, and TC, who writes most of Tamar’s stuff, and works with Brandy. I’m just excited. Hopefully, I’ll get back in with Missy Elliott. We started some stuff together that’s really incredible.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Now you know when you say that, it puts me back in my element of Missy and Timbaland (laughing)
Meelah: I know (laughing),
Urban Grandstand Digital: I’m just like please take us back to that, even if just for a minute. I can’t be the only one who wants that (laughing)
Meelah: Yea, you know it’s funny because she and I talk about that all the time, and I’m like Miss, we can not ignore the people. Y’all got to give us that sound again. Missy and I have really good chemistry in the studio. It’s just something about the sound that we create, which was a lot of 702 sound that the fans miss. I think it’ll be really familiar and it’ll be good to recreate that, so yeah. I’m working on it, I got y’all.
Urban Grandstand Digital: When I tell you that I’m waiting patiently, it’s crazy. I know people think I’m crazy when they look at my twitter and see me tweeting the songs from “Welcome to Our World” and “Beep Me 911”, I know they’re asking why is this dude tweeting this stuff (laughing)
Meelah: That’s ok. You know they be coming for us, calling us oldies but goodies. Trying to label us and categorize us. It’s all good. We made some of the best music, and I still look 25. Try it! (laughing)
Urban Grandstand Digital: Now I really want to talk about Beauty In Beauty Out. How did you get involved and then it comes to them honoring you?
Meelah: Well you know, my new PR firm that I’m so excited about, Amirakal Marketing, actually is the marketing behind BIBO as well. it was like a no-brainer. BIBO is held this year in Las Vegas, and last year it was in Atlanta. It’s encompassing your beauty inside and out, and focusing on people that do things in the community. It made sense, That’s Meelah. I was really honored and humbled. I’m excited it’s in my hometown. I’m excited to be recognized. I was born and raised in Las Vegas. Although I don’t live there currently, any and everything I can do in my hometown, I’m all for it. When we realized it was in Las Vegas, it just made sense. The creator, she’s amazing. I’m so grateful that she even honored what I’m doing, and is giving me the title of honoree. To be recognized, and they recognize not only your talent, but also the things you do. They take a look at the things that aren’t necessarily the forefront of your craft, and I really appreciate her for that. I can’t wait.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I think it’s amazing to be involved, and the things they are doing to encourage people is beautiful, so it has to be big for you to be a part of it. Obviously to be recognized for your talent and things you’re doing is huge.
Meelah: I think what gravitated her to my story is seeing what I'm doing as an Autism advocate. I think she appreciated the fact that I am vocal about my son’s condition, I am sharing my story, and I am compassionate about it. It’s not just Autism either. I stand up for special needs across the board. We have a lot of special needs and autistic children in the african american community, and we don’t talk about it.
Urban Grandstand Digital: That’s the thing right there. I think the reason so many people are gravitating to you and your story is the fact that there are so many people who deal with it, but they just don’t talk about it. But how can others learn from it if no one shares? it’s good that you, and others like Holly Robinson Peete are sharing that.
Meelah: I’m not coming down on those who don’t share their story because I do understand. I was at that point at one time in my life where I didn’t want to share. I felt like no, this is my family and my son, so I get it. Thankfully, there are people like myself, and Holly Robinson Peete, and Toni Braxton, DL Hughley and his family, and Tisha Campbell. These are the people who helped me, and gave me strength to open up.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I think it’s good that you’ve chosen to share it, and obviously that goes back to why you’re being honored.
Meelah: It feels great. I mean, who knew! God is just real…I tell ya. He’s amazing. Very clever.
Urban Grandstand Digital: It’s amazing the things we end up doing that we never expected to be doing.
Meelah: Oh yes, exactly. That’s why I say I understand now. I get it. Now I get it.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Are there any final comments at all?
Meelah: I think we talked about everything. The new single, the video on youtube, and it’ll be on VH1 Soul and Centric soon. It’s also on my instagram and in my bio. Follow me on social media, at ItsMeelah. Thank you to everybody.
Urban Grandstand Digital: We’re definitely following already. I’ve sent some tweets here and there while watching Divas (laughing)…
Meelah: Oh wow, that is too funny. Look…that’s been you (laughing).. Thank you. And you know, I don’t know whether or not I’m returning to R&B Divas, so if you don’t see me, I’m sure you’ll see me on your television soon.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Now that’s funny because seeing as how we talked so good about R&B Divas, I threw that question out the window. Figured I didn’t even need to ask.
Meelah: But it’s no shade. I don’t know if they’re going to have me back, and it’s ok. You know, and I’m going to put it on record. They’re trying to decide if they want Meelah back or not. If they choose to have me back that's good, and if not, that’s cool too. The people have spoken. According to what I get everyday, they want to see me back, But I don’t know what they’re going for. They may want something more than the high road James.
Urban Grandstand Digital: I think that’s what it is. It has gotten so out of hand. You see these shows that don’t want the high road. They want what you call Ratchet USA (laughing)
Meelah: Yes, they want people to turn up and act a fool, so it’s OK to have an opinion, I don’t know, maybe people’s eyes were closed. I clearly was not mute. I clearly had an opinion and I’m very vocal about things I don’t agree with, but I just do it in a laid back classy way. It may or may not be enough. In any case, I may or may not be returning. But you’ll see me on something very soon. I love the camera and the camera loves me (laughing). Thank you everybody for supporting me on R&B Divas. and hey, we’ll see if y’all see me again.