Audio

You Need to Hear Meklit's Ethiopian Cover of The Roots' Classic "You Got Me"

First Listen: We premiere Ethiopian-born singer Meklit's cover of The Roots & Erykah Badu's timeless classic, "You Got Me,"

Ethiopian-born, San Francisco-based singer and songwriter Meklit’s cover of The Roots and Erykah Badu’s timeless classic “You Got Me” is her way of saying thanks to hip-hop.


Over horns, a bass guitar and robust drums, the singer adds her own character to the vocals originally sung by Erykah Badu.

Here’s what she had to say about the song:

“I've wanted to do this particular song for eight or nine years. Growing up in Brooklyn as a young Ethiopian woman, I never heard my name called in public. Every time people talked about Ethiopia, it would be that craziness about poverty. But the one place where I felt seen was inside of hip-hop. You know, when The Pharcyde released “Passing Me By,” those were moments of recognition. I felt the same when Black Thought called out this 'Ethiopian queen from Philly taking classes abroad.' I felt like he was speaking to me and announcing my existence."

“I wanted to interpret that song in and Ethio-jazz way as a way of saying thank you to Black Thought, The Roots and hip-hop for making me. I really wanted it to be in an Ethiopian rhythm. Hip-hop tends to be in 4/4, since I wanted to bring it into a traditional rhythm my cover is in 6 [time]. I spent a lot of time writing a melody. The verses are in an Ethiopian scale which is used for songs of longing and nostalgia. The scale is in a deeply emotional world that I thought really matched the feeling of the lyrics.”

Listen to Meklit's cover of "You Got Me" below, which is premiering with us today. Pre-order her upcoming album, When The People Move The Music Moves Too, and check out her tour dates underneath.

Tour Dates

6/20 – Washington, DC – Tropicalia

6/21 – New York, NY – Nublu

6/24 – Seattle, WA – Madaraka Festival

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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