Mela Machinko has energy to spare.
The Brookly, N.Y.-born singer-songwriter is a powerhouse onstage with a playful-yet-undeniably strong persona that seems to permeate every corner of the room. On this particular night, she’s rocking Paperbox in Brooklyn, showing love to a crowd that obviously loves her back and previewing tracks like “I’m Sorry” and “Over Do It” from her upcoming album, the Jay-Z-inspired concept project Hov Said It Best.
“It’s been a really fun and easy project to get into,” she shares later. “He’s prolific and I noticed that a lot of stuff that came from his lyrics came to be ubiquitous in my vocabulary. The idea came from me literally saying to someone, ‘What do you want me to do? I’m sorry!’ and it was the spark for a song. It’s [about] fun songs and its interesting music.”
Watching her perform and hearing her sing, it’s obvious that “fun and interesting” are two qualities that come naturally to Machinko. A soul singer in the purest, most honest sense, but her perspective and approach are deeply rooted in hip-hop. Not that she’s obsessive about genres and categorizations. “I’m very hip-hop-influenced and that’s probably going to always be part of my expression, my writing, my singing. I don’t call myself ‘a hip-hop/R&B singer’ because I don’t really sound like what’s considered hip hop and R&B these days. Call me what you wanna call me — just as long as you call me.”
She’s worked with rappers like JeanGrae, Pharaoh Monche and Talib Kweli, and she cites those positive experiences and the love she’s gotten from the public as her primary motivators whenever she gets frustrated or wearied with “the business.” “When I’m just like ‘All right, that’s it,’ then someone hits me up and says ‘ I saw you perform in South Africa and you’re my favorite vocalist ever,’” she shares. “Or my mom would say ‘I saw your videos.’ I just keep moving and the moments keep coming. The universe talks to me and holds me up.”
Representing for strong women, Mela Machinko is nothing if not engaging. And her boldness makes her irresistible. At her Paperbox show, fans joined her onstage and rushed to meet her afterwards. She draws people in — and charisma is the mark of a true star.
“It feels good — touching people and feeling people,” Mela adds. “There’s nothing like being onstage and making an impact. Even if it’s just in that moment. It’s the payoff because it’s a lot of fun to make [the music] and I just want to share it. It’s all about the people!”
– stereo williams