Episode 3.5: Raw Like Sushi

neneh-cherry-raw-like-sushi

Raw Like Sushi – Neneh Cherry – Virgin – 1989

By 1989, 25-year-old Neneh Cherry had already lived multiple vibrant lives. The child of bohemians (her mother, artist Moki Cherry, and her step-father, jazz musician Don Cherry). The 14-year-old high school dropout-turned-downtown-club-kid. The 16-year-old touring the UK with The Slits. The lead singer of post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic. Wife and mother. Divorced single mother, lover, and collaborator. All of these eclectic experiences and identities shape the 10 tracks of Cherry’s debut solo album Raw Like Sushi. Like Cherry, the album is impossible to pin down as one thing; it’s feisty and assertive, using a melting pot of influences from rap to funk to dance pop to convey a young woman’s truths without waiting for permission to do so.

Though the album is nearly 30 years old, it’s one we have found ourselves listening to often in recent months, marveling at its prescience and continued relevancy. Not only do we hear 2018 ring in its girl power-inspiring anthems, assertions of female sexuality, or rebuking of Men Behaving Badly. We hear its decade-defining production reflected in current artists attempting to recreate specific dated sounds of the past — and use this album as a reminder that we need to understand where we have been to know where we are going.

In this episode, we unpack the layers of this album’s lasting sonic influence, discuss and debate the ways its topics remain relevant in today’s cultural and political climate, and salute Neneh Cherry’s prolific unfuckwithable baddiness.

Listen to Raw Like Sushi: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hey, hi, hello! Our apologies for our lengthy absence, but this is our side hustle and our real lives got lowkey busy, but we’re back!
  • This album is only two years older than us. Is that weird?
  • Shoutout to Viv Albertine and her dope 2014 memoir for turning us on to Neneh Cherry.
  • Peep our further watching links below to see Neneh performing with the Slits.
  • Okay but like… you could live under a rock and still have likely heard “Buffalo Stance”
    • Let’s get this bread.
    • Who knew the word “buffalo” had so many different connotations?
    • “We went over [to America] with our funny little posse from London. And in the black department, [“Buffalo Stance”] wasn’t black enough, and in the white department, it was too black. So it was just this weird middle satellite, floating around.” — Neneh Cherry, Pitchfork, 2014
    • Check out our further watching links to see that iconic Top of the Pops performance. SHOUTOUT TO BADDASS WOMEN WHO GET SHIT DONE.
  • Rolling our eyes forever at the manboys and scumbros of the world.
    • Here’s a CliffsNotes guide to the Nicki Minaj – Cardi B. beef, if you’re curious about how they approach diss tracks like this.
  • Why are teens so scary???
  • Okay but “Kisses On The Wind” brings up such a complicated discussion about girls acting older than they are and the ramifications, false (or maybe not!) confidences, and power dynamics involved. We could talk all day about this stuff; hit us up if you have thoughts.
  • Shoutout to New York City, the greatest worst city in the world!!! Love you and hate you so much!!!
  • “The Next Generation” is pre-woke, don’t @ us.
  • While we’re randomly talking about Paula Abdul, please enjoy this, the single greatest video on the internet.
  • “Phoney Ladies” is also pre-woke!
    • Susan Collins: Resign, bitch.
    • There’s a special 🙂 place 🙂 in 🙂 hell 🙂 for 🙂 women 🙂 who 🙂 don’t 🙂 help 🙂 other 🙂 women 🙂
  • We’re both super into this weird current music trend we’ve been in for a couple of years now with bops throwing it back to ‘80s production techniques. (Hi Jack Antonoff! Hi Rostam! Hi Dev Hynes!)
  • We could spend a longgggg time talking about how many artists Neneh Cherry has inspired, but to save space, we’ll just direct you to our massive Spotify master playlist for a bunch of recommended listening.
  • After an 18-year absence, Neneh Cherry is back on her game, making great music for our times. Her latest release, this month’s Broken Politics, is no exception.
  • As always, find and follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you don’t already.

Favorite track(s): Buffalo Stance and Inna City Mama (Carly) | Buffalo Stance and Heart (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Love Ghetto (Carly) | Inna City Mamma (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Neneh Cherry — Vocals, programming
  • Sandy McLelland — Background vocals
  • Chandra Armstead — Background vocals
  • Cameron “Booga Bear” McVey — Background vocals, executive producer, mixing, beats
  • Phil Chill — Programming, beats, background vocals
  • Claudia Fontaine — Background vocals
  • Nellee Hooper — Vibraphone
  • Jerod — Guitar
  • Alvin Moody — Bass
  • Nick Plytas — Programming
  • Jeff Scantlebury — Conga
  • John Sharp — Programming
  • Tim Simenon — Beats
  • Dynamik Duo — Beats
  • Mark Saunders — Multi-instruments, beats
  • Wil Malone — Conductor, programming, string arrangements
  • Gordon Dukes — Background vocals
  • Mushroom — Programming

Further watching:
Montreux Jazz Festival interview | 2012
Performance + Interview on Arsenio Hall | 1993
“Manchild” live on Top of the Pops | 1989
”Buffalo Stance” live on Top of the Pops | 1988
The Slits – The Man Next Door live | 1981

Further reading:
Neneh Cherry Never Stopped Taking Risks. Now She’s Making Politics Personal | New York Times (October 2018)
Neneh Cherry Is Back and More Fashionable Than Ever | Vogue (August 2018)
Raw Like Sushi Sunday Review | Pitchfork (April 2018)  
Neneh Cherry Will Get an Overdue New York Debut | New York Times (January 2015)
Disorienting Eclecticism: Neneh Cherry’s Raw Like Sushi Revisited | The Quietus (May 2014)
Raw Like Sushi review | BBC (2009)
Neneh Cherry: Homestyle | Rolling Stone (February 1993)

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