We recently caught up with Meelah for an interview on Instagram live. She shared with us the details of what we can expect on her long awaited solo album, memories of 702 including reuniting with the group in recent years, her history as a songwriter and background vocalist, and much more.
Meelah: I’ve been talking about it for a very long time. I’ve just been doing the independent route for years. It’s never been my super hard focal point. When I became a mother, that kind of took over everything. Having a special needs kids, that shifted my trajectory and slowed me down a bit. So it’s not my #1 hustle anymore. On top of that, I wasn’t signed to anybody, which was a blessing. But now as of two years ago, I’m signed with Musiq Soulchild and distributed through eOne, so I’ve got a bit more of a platform. That’s when I really started recording the album, 2017, and then I stopped for a year when I got back on the road with 702. I got the group back together. That took about a year and a half out of the process. Honestly, I’ve got to say, I’ve just been learning more and more about the person I am. I’ve changed, I’m not the Meelah that I was when I first started recording. I’ve been through a lot of different things and I have a lot more to sing and write about. A lot of stuff I’ve done in the past was written for me. I did songs written for someone else and gave it a go. Now it’s stuff I’m writing and it’s about my life and stuff I’ve gone through. I don’t mind taking a little extra time to give you a little more of who I really am. A little more integrity, I don’t want to just put out something because it’s a hot song somebody wrote for me. Bear with me! I know I’ve been talking about this for 18 years! The cool thing is I can take my time and do that and I’m grateful. I know that the industry has changed so much and people’s attention span is short. They really don’t care much anymore, but I’m good! Thank you to those who care! I’m actually done recording! The pandemic interrupted the beginning process of mixing and mastering. We’re trying to get this thing out, I was supposed to have it out by Summer! It’s definitely inching along, but I will get this thing out 2020! *Laughs* We wanted it to be a conceptualized theme album. As I started to record, I realized it’s all about my relationship with my ex Musiq, and everything we went through with the breakup to present. I started it off really angry and hurt and upset and pissed off at the world. I had a lot of emotional records. As time went on, I just wanted to be more transparent but not so heavy, but really what I went through and what I was feeling in the relationship. It’s an emotional album and sometimes that takes time! It drains sometimes! *Laughs* The good thing is I came out of it with all smiles, we’re in a super great space now. It made for a great album and I’m excited to hear it. Initially it was going to be a visual album. We got one visual in and then all of this happened! Just a few bumps in the road, but it’s not going to stop the flow. We’re going to keep it moving even if we have to shift and change the plans. I do have three singles out there that people can hear that came out over the past few years: “I Do What I Feel Like”, “Desert Love” and “Now You’re Mad”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk abut being underrated as a vocalist.
Meelah: As an adult, I’ve come to the realization I’ve made a mark on this industry in a way that I’m very pleased with. The fact that my voice along with the contribution from 702 as a collective is now sampled by other artists in this generation. Sometimes hearing my voice sped up or in a riff playing on a song, I’ll take it! That makes me feel good, I don’t feel like I’m slighted in any way. That’s my fate and what God has for me. I don’t need the validation to be bigger than I am in certain people’s eyes.
YouKnowIGotSoul: R&B lovers were so happy when 702 reunited. What was it like being in that moment?
Meelah: For the longest time it wasn’t something I was interested in doing. Not because I was going solo, I think we all had moments where we kind of had been apart for so long and had been through our own growing pains being in the group, so we took a break for it. I feel confident each of us have had moments when we were done. We grew up together and did three albums from teenage years through our 20’s. Being received in 2017 during our impromptu guest appearance at the 2017 Soul Train Awards in Las Vegas on the red carpet. The reception was a blessing. When we got on the road in 2018, it was awesome. I love that I was able to get back in touch with the girls and it felt like we were able to pick up where we left off on the positive notes. I think for me, it’s just always challenging to establish myself as an individual. I’m sure they felt that way as well. Not just about the music, but an individual person. It’s probably always going to be Meelah from 702. It’s a blessing because that’s what got me here. It’s not a bad association because I appreciate it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Was there ever any talk of doing new music with 702?
Meelah: I started working on my album before we got together because I had that situation with Soulchild and eONe. Honestly, our goal was always at least just to get on the road and see how that worked out. If other opportunities came along like television. I honestly wanted to try our hand at television because that honestly feels like the new record deal! It’s like you’re a walking poster board! We just never went as far as doing the music. Personally, I felt like lets give the fans the hits and keep it moving. Unfortunately it doesn’t feel like people care that much about new music from groups back in my area. It just seems like they want to hear stuff that gives them nostalgia. So we never tapped into it. It’s a lot that goes into being in a group and the dynamics. We’re all wives and mothers living in different cities.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take us back to the work you did on Faith Evans’ “Faithfully” album. A lot of people don’t even realize you wrote on that album.
Meelah: I was blessed and honored to be a part of that. At the time, we shared management. I wrote on a couple of songs and same backgrounds on a couple of songs on the album. It was really dope. “You Gets No Love”, “Don’t Cry”, and “Mesmerize”. Shout out to her, I was able to get on the song she did with Pharrell, it was my first time meeting him. I’ve been grinding for a long time! When I wasn’t in 702, I was singing backgrounds for so many different artists. I lived in L.A. for 11 years and I got to work with really dope artists like Raphael Saadiq. I got in with Macy Gray, I wrote on her album. I know people saw me for a stint doing background singing, I had a ball! I have three passports just from singing with Macy alone! *Laughs* She would keep you overseas, I love it. I got to write with them too. I got to be around just all of that talent. They are so gifted. To suck all of that up and be a student. At first I was so conflicted by ending up in the world of background singing after being the front girl from a successful group. I was almost embarrassed in the beginning. At the time, it was really just about survival. I had no team. 702 had broken up and I was in L.A. grinding. I did that to pay the bills. It went from one gig to three years on the road with Macy Gray. I think my last gig with her, I was pregnant in my son in Hong Kong and it was time to stop. I knew it was not ultimately what I wanted to do. It wasn’t my mission in life. I stopped so I could be a mother and give my career a second go. I had a rebirth when I moved here to Atlanta and did R&B Divas. It’s been pretty cool.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Another song you worked on was “Take Away” by Missy Elliott and Ginuwine and Tweet. Talk about that experience.
Meelah: Not only did I do background vocals, I also wrote a verse on that song! Before Ginuwine was on the song and before Tweet, I was with Missy pretty much her whole album. “Miss E So Addictive”. Me and Tweet were there for most of that recording. Missy is so crazy and like a big sister to me. She called me in and wanted me on the song. She later added Ginuwine to it and a different version with Tweet. But that was an honor, I love that song, that is my groove to this day. I had a good time doing it. I also worked with Puff Daddy for awhile and he wanted to put me in Total, so I worked with them for a hot second. Shout out to Keisha and Pam, love them, love Kima too. I flirted with that idea for a minute, I love them, they are so dope, but ultimately it didn’t work out. I wasn’t trying to be a group hopper. But the fact I was even asked? Their swag is on 1 trillion! I didn’t even that swag back then! I have it now! I got stories for days and so much stuff I’ve contributed to and been a part of. Always humble and grateful for the opportunities.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We didn’t even realize that Tiffany Villareal was originally part of 702!
Meelah: That’s one of my best friends, we talk all of the time. We went to high school together and we remained really close friends. We auditioned together for 702 together! If you follow 702, they had “This Lil Game” with the group Subway with four members before me. We had to audition for Michael Bivens when he wanted to remix the group. But ultimately Mike decided to make it a trio. We remained cool with her and she remained part of the family. I got our graduation picture together in high school. She’s so dope, love her voice!
YouKnowIGotSoul: The cool thing about your work with Missy Elliott is you got to work with her before her debut album even came out! What was it like to work with her back in the day?
Meelah: Musiq told me that too when we first started dating! That “Beep Me 911” song. That song is timeless and could come out today. Missy and Timbaland are ahead of their time. Shout out to Missy. She left me a voice text for Mother’s Day and I almost cried! It was so sweet. We try to keep in touch. I texted her back that she almost made me cry!
YouKnowIGotSoul: I’ll tell you what, we are still waiting on a video for the 702 song “I Still Love You” from the group’s third album!
Meelah: Even though the album kind of bombed due to politics, people still took to that song. It did what it did on it’s own. The fact that the song gets mentioned all the time even though it wasn’t a promoted song, speaks volumes to how amazing it was.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Which is your favorite 702 album?
Meelah: I’d have to say the first one. Shout out to the whole team. We were so young and green. Those records I think were even before our time. We were 15, 16, 17 recording “Get It Together”. Donell Jones did his thing with that and I didn’t even know what I was singing. “Steelo” is forever a classic and “Get It Together” those are the singles. But if you really want to dig deep, “Finding My Way”, the last song, it was written by Malik Pendleton, it might have even been too grown for us for the time. I think that album was a great starting point for a group of three young girls out of Vegas. Then we had the “All I Want” which was used for Good Burger.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What else can you share about your upcoming solo album?
Meelah: I’m so excited about it. Musiq and I don’t have a duet, but he co-wrote a song with me called “Tonight”, one of my favorite records. I kind of did it in the style of Angela Winbush and 80’s records like Anita Baker, it’s so groovy. I was even able to get one from Robert Glasper that I was able to write to, he sent me a track. I’m such a Robert Glasper fan. I’m excited about this project. Hopefully it will be out no later than 2020. I don’t have any features right now. Songwriter TC made a contribution. I didn’t want this album to be heavy R&B, but I don’t even know what R&B is considered anymore. I’m just really excited for you all to hear it.