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Chaka's World Articles, Vol.III
'Ain't Nobody Like Chaka Khan'
{Part I}
(Originally Appeared In Seven Magazine In 1996.Writer Unknown)

"There is some shit going on and it's not good". The legendary Chaka Khan is not afraid to tell it as it is, whether she's discussing the trials and tribulations of being a recording artist in corporate America or the plight of the world's oppressed. The singer has recently started hosting her own late night music show on a Los Angeles pop station, The New B100.3, and she plans to shake up conservative radio formats in segregated, ethnocentric America.

Khan, who splits her time between London and Los Angeles, has made the journey down to Austrailia to perform at Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras, but she is also keen to promote her latest release, a best of entitled 'Epiphany' that focuses on her solo career. In 1978, Khan finally broke free from Rufus, a group of black & white funk-rockers that attracted a wide audience in the '70s, and released her debut solo single, the landmark 'I'm Every Woman'. However, Khan was still contractually obligated to record with the group, and ironically, the early '80s was a fruitful period for the singer and her collegues, despite hints of tension among them. In 1983, Rufus & Chaka Khan released a stunning live album, 'Live..Stompin At The Savoy', which featured the studio track, 'Ain't Nobody'. It is perhaps one of Khan's greatest moments and remains one of her favorites.

The singer intends to release several volumes of 'Epiphany', showcasing favorite album cuts rather than the hits. She also promises to include some new songs. Somewhat suprisingly, it is the previously unreleased material on 'Epiphany' that has caused the recent buzz in the music press. For several months now, pop scribes have speculated about a new Chaka Khan masterpiece ('Dare You To Love Me') that the singer's label, Warner Brothers, decided to shelve. The album was produced by David Gamson & Andre' Betts, and featured input from the likes of Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Gerry DeVeaux, and Prince. Chaka Khan commented on Prince's contribution, "There's one song that he, a friend of mine named Chan, and Rosie Gaines wrote...It's called 'Pain'. Brilliant!! So he has one collaborative song on it". Ndegeocello has been particularly forthright about the corporate politics involved in the decision to withhold the record. Khan confirms that some of the new songs on 'Epiphany' come from those sessions. As it happens, one of these is her duet with Ndegeocello, 'Never Miss The Water', the current Austrailian single that has already gone to number one on Billboard's US R&B charts, and was nominated for a Grammy.

Now finally, Khan sheds some light on the whole affair, complicated & baffling as it is. "Well, the thing is that for the last five years, this company has been going through these amazing changes.It's really screwed up. It's really, really bad now.And it's to the point where the artists on the label are really just a distraction, because everyone is wondering if they're going to be working there's like that.Everybody's trying to cover his butt, and so we're just in the way", Khan laughes in obvious irritation. "They put off my release date..I did this album almost two years ago, and it's been ready for a year & a half. They put off my release date five times because of the hiring & firing & shit like that. Now, if I'd been more aggressive & more of an asshole, I would have sued them for that because I had every right to! We did an entire album and it was brilliant! Me'Shell was playing on a lot of stuff, and we even collaborated on a was brilliant!! We did great work, but when I saw the state of the company, I said No, I think I'm going to hold on to it. I'll give them something they can work with, something that will work itself; something that a child, even a preschooler, could work"..

Consequently, Khan decided to put together a timely & very marketable best of compilation. The 'Epiphany' collection coincides with her current club-led renaissance. "At the time I decided to do that best of, I also had this epiphany..I'd been in the business for 25 years. And so, you know, it worked out in a good way, a positive way.It could have beeen a catastrophe". For this latest enterprise, Khan has aligned herself with a Warner subsidiary, Reprise, where she is backed by a small & dedicated promotional team. The star, who has been given the red carpet treatment in Austrailia, concedes that Warner is still one of the best companies for Black music, and the corporate troubles she describes are in fact widespread. "Just about every major company right now is going through some shit. It's the smaller companies that are really strong because the big conglomarate crap is ridiculous. There's no artist development happening, there's no interest in the artist at all". She adds, "a sensitive art form can't survive with all that shit happening". Khan has even considered setting up her own label. As she sees it, the secret is to have "as few artists on the label as possible, but good ones, cornerstones". Justifiably, Khan is dissappointed that her albums have not been properly promoted in the past few years, and during the course of the conversation, she keeps returning to this evidently painful subject. Referring to 1992's turning point, 'The Woman I Am', which was not supported at all, but still won a Grammy, she says "I was really frightened & that's why I've become so involved.I had to". {Continued in Part II}