Meshell Ndegeocello has never been one to make things easy, either for herself or her listeners, and that dynamic applies to her seventh album. The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams opens on a puzzling note with "Haditha", 90 seconds of end-times speechifying by Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf (a not-very-interesting spiel few people will want to hear more than once). That serves as prelude to a record so dense it sounds positively impenetrable on first listen. But there's a handsome payoff, if you're willing to give the album enough time. Although it can't top 1999's Bitter (still Ndegeocello's artistic high point), this is a fascinating portrait of the artist as a streetwise and somewhat nutty provocateur. Combine the doomy heart-of-darkness vibe of Sly & the Family Stone's "There's A Riot Goin' On" with Prince's people-get-naked erotic sermonizing, and that's pretty close to the feel here. Ndegeocello alternately whispers, croons, shouts, moans, and submits to computer processing on a set of atmospheric funk that has a movie's worth of drama per song. The sequence and flow are seamless, yet Ndegeocello covers a great deal of ground, turning on a dime from jazzy atmospherics to reggae dub to club beats to punk snarl. It's all grounded in the heartbeat of her luscious basslines. If she ever tired of following her own muse, Ndegeocello could probably make a handsome living as a bassist for hire. We'd be missing out, though.