In these parts, Khan is best known for her 1984 smash 'I Feel For You', a cover of an early & other wise obscure Prince song. Her innovative hip-hop flavoured remake featured Old School rapper Melle Mel. Khan admits that over time, the track's novelty has worn off. "I've really had it with that song! I'm really tired of having my name repeated like that...I'm sick of the song because people come up on the streets and do it too, it's not just on stage that I get it", she laughs good naturedly. "On the other hand, I'm really blessed to have had a hit like that. Now, I don't mind singing 'Ain't Nobody'! I still like that song..It's interesting how some songs don't wear on you". Khan has also resigned herself to the fact that her classics will be covered by lesser talents, who simply want a sure-fire hit. The latest culprit is rapper L.L.Cool J, who has recorded a lazy, karaoke-style cover of 'Ain't Nobody'. Khan shrugs shoulders, "I used to have strong views on that sort of thing, but you know...". The glam diva, who like Tina Turner, just seems to get more & more beautiful with each year, takes a puff on her cigarette, and exhales.
The songstress with the best 'do' in the biz has never lost her spunky street attitude, and it is no wonder that she is so revered by a whole new generation of female artists such as Mary J.Blige, the so-called Queen Of Hip Hop Soul. Blige is often described as the 'new' Chaka Khan, and she has even recorded two of Khan's classics, 'Sweet Thing' & 'Everlasting Love'. Both artists guested on Babyface's cross-generational, all female soundtrack, 'Waiting To Exhale', which was also nominated for a Grammy this year. At the ceremony, Khan sang alongside the ecstatic Blige during an all-star rendition of Whitney Houston & CeCe Winan's 'Count On Me', the album's finale. Khan recognizes the young diva's potential. "She hasn't quite come up to snuff with her remakes in my opinion, but I really admire her, she's a really sweet person. And she does have talent. She's getting better. I do see her growing".
Khan could easily lay claim to the title of 'High Priestess Of Hip Hop Soul', even though she has only rapped on the one song, 1988's 'CK' album track, 'Sticky Wicked', with Prince & Miles Davis. "I swore I would never rap, I swore, until Prince sent me this song and I said ok, I have to do it now because I love the message". Khan reveals that she, Davis, and Prince planned to record an entire album together, but then, unfortunately, Davis died. Essentially, Chaka regards herself as a fusion artist, but her roots lie in jazz. Over the years, the singer has ventured back into jazz (she recorded an album of standards in 1982), and she hopes to release another jazz album "real soon". Indeed, the 44 year old has no plans of slowing down. For starters, Khan wants to put together an all girl band with her good friend Ndegeocello, an idea that preceded the dream band Ellen DeGeneres assembled for the Grammys. Khan also plans to do some production:she recently oversaw a collaboration between Chi-town singer Miki Howard & soul mavarick, Terrence Trent D'Arby. And if that wasn't enough, Khan has an autobiography in the works. She's hooked up with another old friend, Pepsi Charles, an academic from New Jersey. Khan promises a meaty book that will be "accepted in higher literary circles".
Talk turns back to Khan's radio show. She intends to push the envelope with the program, and adapt a global perspective. Her Austrailian trip has been particularly inspiring. "I just went to Redfern in Sydney where all the Blacks live, and I visited a radio station there. It was so amazing, it made me so happy.It made my whole trip this time because last time I was here, there was some kind of block...no one wanted me to see, it's like a really weird thing here about not seeing the Blacks. So I went, because I have to see what my people are doing here". Khan, once more fired up, continues, "I made a lot of friends, so one thing I will do is feed in some shit from thier radio station to my station. I selected some CDs, artists I will play".
As with the Fugees, who also made a point of visiting Sydney's Aboriginal 'hood' during their tour, Khan takes a serious interest in the experience of Black communities around the world. She is particularly angered about the authorities' plans to redevelop the Redfern area in preparation for the Olympic Games (in 2000). "There is some shit going on, and it's not good.They're getting ready to tear down the whole area that I walked through, and the Blacks don't have any place to go. What the fuck is that? That's a big deal. I plan to come back and help them, I plan to do some shit with concerts". Khan has collected some literature, and she intends to "study it up". She concludes, "it's the same shit in America, it's the same shit everywhere in the world, there's some racist shit goin' on. I feel pretty helpless about the whole situation, actually, but I still feel compelled to at least open my mouth". And so despite her iconic status as pop diva, Khan is keepin' it real in the nine-seven. There ain't nobody like Chaka!