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Badu, Erykah

Erykah Badu

Singer, songwriter

Erykah Badu released her first album, Baduizm, in 1997 to a rare degree of popular and critical acclaim. The Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter was hailed as an exceptionally gifted talent who effortlessly fused jazz singing styles of the past with 1990s-style R&B and hip-hop. Her fluent, highly individual vocalizing and spiritually-tinged songwriting were welcomed as something fresh and compelling. Badu's voice drew comparisons to Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and, in particular, Billie Holiday. In concert, she cultivated a mystical persona that drew on African and New Age sources for inspiration. "Habitually attired in a long dress, silver bracelets, necklaces and rings, and a head wrap that juts up like a crown, Badu works the stage lighted by candles and surrounded by incense like a woman on a mission," wrote Kevin Powell in Rolling Stone.

From Badu's own perspective, her music synthesized a wide range of influences, from jazz artists like Holiday through such R&B figures of the 1960s and 1970s as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan. "Everything on the album [Baduizm] is a mixture of all those things I heard growing up as a black youth," she told New York Times writer Natasha Stovall.

Artistic Development Encouraged

Badu benefitted from growing up in a home that nurtured her creativity. Born Erica Wright on February 26, 1971, in Dallas, Texas, she was raised by her mother, Kolleen Wright, and her grandmother, both actresses involved in local theater. They both encouraged Erica to develop her artistic leanings, which included painting, dancing, and acting, as well as music. "I remember the first time I was in a show," she told the New York Times. "I was in the first grade. It was a Christmas play, and I sang ‘Somebody Snitched On Me.’ That's when I knew I could command the stage."

At age 14, she tried her hand at freestyle-rapping for a local radio station, KNON. After being accepted at Dallas's Arts Magnet High School, she gained notoriety as half of a female rap crew under the name MC Apples. "We were even better than a lot of the guy groups," Badu told Rolling Stone. "Shoot, I'm always going to be a freestyle fool. Rap is like the jazz of Billie Holiday's day." It was during her high school years that she decided to discard her "slave name." She changed the spelling of her first name to Erykah, which contained the Egyptian word "kah," meaning "inner light" or "inner self." Later, she changed her surname as well, taking "Badu" from a favorite scat-singing phrase. She subsequently learned that "badu" means "to manifest light and truth" in Arabic.

After high school, Badu enrolled at Louisiana's Grambling State University as a theater student. Before completing her studies, she returned to Dallas in 1993 and supported herself as a waitress and dance instructor while pursuing a music career. She initially formed a hip-hop duo called Erykah Free with her cousin, Robert "Free" Bradford. The pair soon earned local opening slots for such touring acts as the Wu-Tang Clan, D'Angelo, A Tribe Called Quest, Arrested Development, and Mobb Deep, among others. Several recording offers followed, but the one Badu ultimately accepted from Kedar Entertainment was for her alone. Although Bradford eventually received production and songwriting credits on Baduizm, his relations with Badu became unavoidably strained.

A Rising Star

Badu relocated to Brooklyn after her recording deal with Universal's Kedar Entertainment label was secure. Label founder Kedar Massenberg began promoting her by distributing advance copies of her recordings at the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards. He arranged for Badu to record a remake of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duet "Your Precious Love" with R&B singer D'Angelo for the soundtrack to the 1997 film High School High. Her first single, the sensual, hypnotic "On & On," was released in January of 1998 and quickly became a pop hit. A month later, Baduizm appeared, rising to number two on the pop album charts and eventually topping the triple-platinum sales mark. An outstanding debut effort, the album was co-produced by the Roots, a hip-hop duo, and featured such stellar session players as jazz bassist Ron Carter. "On & On" was followed up by "Next Lifetime," which also became a hit.

For the Record …

Born Erica Wright, February 26, 1971, in Dallas, TX; son of William Wright Jr. and Kolleen Wright (a professional actress); children: Seven (son by Andre Benjamin of Outkast), Puma (daughter by rapper The D.O.C., a.k.a. Tracy Lynn Curry).

Formed duo Erykah Free with cousin Robert "Free" Bradford c. 1993; signed with Universal/Kedar Entertainment as solo artist, recorded duet "Your Precious Love" with singer D'Angelo in 1996; released albums Baduizm and Live in 1997; appeared in the film Blues Brothers 2000, 1998; has appeared on numerous televison programs as a guest vocalist and actress, including The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and her own special, Eryka Badu Live, 1997-2008.

Awards: Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Performance, 1997; Grammy Award, Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, for "You Got Me," 1999; Grammy Award, Best R&B Song, for "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)," 2002; Black Reel Awards: Best Supporting Actress, for The Cider House Rules, 2000; and Best Film Song (shared with Common), for "Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)" from Brown Sugar, 2003.

Addresses: Record company—Universal/Motown Records, 1755 Broadway, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10019, Web site: http://new.umusic.com/labels.aspx?Group=1. Web site—Eryka Badu Official Web sites: http://www.erykahbadu.com and http://www.baduworld.com.

Making the most of her career momentum, Badu received praise as the co-director of videos for "On & On" and "Next Lifetime," the latter featuring her mother, brother, and grandmother as extras. She dabbled in acting by appearing in an episode of ABC-TV's OneLife To Live in 1997, and portraying a jazz-singing Creole sorceress in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000. During the summer of 1997, she joined forces with funk pioneer George Clinton and hip-stars Cypress Hill, the Pharcyde, and Outkast on the Smokin' Grooves Tour across the United States. That fall, Badu released her Live album, which featured her in an intimate concert setting with a three-piece band and a trio of background singers. In addition to live versions of songs found on Baduizm, the album included the new tune "Tyrone," a scathing portrait of a soon-to-be-former boyfriend set to a slow-burning beat. Live also featured Badu's covers of songs by her R&B forerunners, including Chaka Khan's "Stay."

Badu was honored in 1998 with Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Performance. She spent the summer of that year on tour with Lillith Fair, the all-female concert series launched by singer Sarah McLachlan. In the midst of all this activity, she also found time for a personal life with Outkast member Andre "Dre" Benjamin and their son, Seven, born in November of 1997. (The child's name was chosen because seven is a prime number, which cannot be divided by any whole number except itself and zero.)

With two acclaimed albums behind her, Badu established herself as a major artist. In interviews, she balanced self-confidence with a sense of her overall role in pop music. "It's a blessing, really," she told Billboard's Shawnee Smith, as Baduizm began its ascent on the charts. "I can't take all the credit for it. It's my energy and my voice, but it was a team effort. I'm just a midwife aiding in the rebirthing process of music."

Badu wowed her fans with her acting role in the 1999 film The Cider House Rules, which, along with a Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress, garnered nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Satellite Awards. Although Badu has proved impressive in several television appearances and as Lady Elizabeth in the 2004 feature film House of D, the artist has largely ignored the silver screen in favor of music and family.

Continued Success

Badu's much anticipated third album, Mama's Guns, soulfully blended rock and reggae into her bag of soul tricks. Spearheaded by the hit single "Bag Lady" (2000), the album proved a monster success. She puzzled her fans with 2003's Worldwide Underground, a 50-minute EP (usually the length of an average LP) that featured guest appearances from Angie Stone, Bahamadia, and Queen Latifah. The atmospheric blend of R&B and dance track jams yielded the Grammy-winning hit "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)," which also enlivened the soundtrack of the telefilm Brown Sugar.

For the next few years, Badu's family life took center stage. A relationship with rapper The D.O.C. resulted in the birth of her daughter Puma. "My first job is being a mother," she told Clarence Waldron of Jet Magazine in 2008. "That comes before anything for me. And that helps me be as creative as I am." During her time away from the music business, she transformed her Texas abode into a supplemental school that utilized home school principles.

Badu returned to the limelight in 2008 with New Amerykah: Part 1: 4th World War, her first album for the Motown-Universal imprint. The first of many proposed releases, the work tackled drug addiction, the Nation of Islam, social and political issues, and included a touching paean to her late producer J Dilla. "It's my testimony of where we are as a race, as a people and as a family here in America," she told Waldron. "This is my perspective. That's why I put my name in it, Amerykah."

Selected discography

Baduizm, Kedar Entertainment/Universal, 1997.

Live, Kedar Entertainment/Universal, 1997.

Mama's Guns, Kedar Entertainment/Universal, 2000.

Worldwide Underground, Motown/Universal, 2003.

New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, Motown/Universal, 2008.

Sources

Books

Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze, 1998.

Periodicals

Billboard, March 15, 1997.

Jet, March 3, 2008.

New York Times, April 6, 1997.

Rolling Stone, February 20, 1997; March 20, 1997.

Online

"Erykah Badu," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 8, 2008).

"Erykah Badu," Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com (June 8, 2008).

"Erykah Badu," Wall Of Sound,http://wallofsound.go.com (May 21, 1999).

Erykah Badu Biography, Rolling Stone Network,http://www.rollingstone.com (June 8, 2008).

"Jet: Erykah Badu tells why it took 5 years for CD ‘New Amerykah,’" Find Articles,http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_8_113/ai_n24921487/print (March 3, 2008).

—Barry Alfonso and Ken Burke

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Badu, Erykah

Erykah Badu

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Erykah Badu released her first album, Baduizm, in 1997 to a rare degree of popular and critical acclaim. The Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter was hailed as an exceptionally gifted talent who effortlessly fused jazz singing styles of the past with 1990s-style R&B and hip-hop. Her fluent, highly individual vocalizing and spiritually-tinged songwriting were welcomed as something fresh and compelling. Badus voice drew comparisons with that of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and, in particular, BillieHolliday. Writing for the online All-Media Guide, John Bush noted that her languruous, occationally tortured vocals and delicate phrasing immediately removed her from the legion of cookie-cutter female R&B singers. In concert, she cultivated a mystical persona that drew upon African and New Age sources for inspiration. Habitually attired in a long dress, silver bracelets, necklaces and rings, and a head wrap that juts up like a crown, Badu works the stagelighted by candles and surrounded by incenselike a woman on a mission, wrote Kevin Powell in Rolling Stone.

From Badus own perspective, her music synthesized a wide range of influences, from jazz artists like Holliday through such R&B figures of the 1960s and 1970s as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan. Everything on the album [Baduizm] is a mixture of all those things I heard growing up as a black youth, she told New York Times writer Natasha Stovall. Later in the same interview, she stated, I dont know the rules what youre supposed to sing or what category youre supposed to be in so I dont have any. I cant stand for someone to tell me, Well, we cant do that.

Badu benefitted from growing up in a home that nurtured her creativity. Born Erica Wright in Dallas, Texas, she was raised by her mother Kolleen Wright and grandmother, both actresses involved in local theater. They both encouraged Erica to develop her artistic leanings, which included painting, dancing and acting as well as music. I remember the first time I was in a show, she told the New York Times. I was in the first grade. It was a Christmas play, and I sang Somebody Snitched On Me. Thats when I knew I could command the stage.

At age 14, she tried her hand at freestyle-rapping for a local radio station, KNON. After being accepted at Dallas arts magnet high school, she gained notoriety as half of a female rap crew underthe name MC Apples. We were even better than a lot of the guy groups, Badu told Rolling Stone. Shoot, Im always going to be a freestyle fool. Rap is like the jazz of Billie Holidays day. It was during her high school years that she decided to discard her slave name. She changed the spelling of her first name to Erykah, which contained the Egyptian word kah, meaning inner light or inner self. Later, she

For the Record

Born Erica Wright, February 26, 1972 (some sources say 1971) in Dallas, TX.

Formed duo Erykah Free with cousin Robert Free Bradford c. 1993; signed with Universal/Kedar Entertainment as solo artist, recorded duet Your Precious Love with singer DAngelo in 1996; released albums Baduizm and Live in 1997; appeared in the film Blues Brothers 2000, 1998.

Awards: Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Performance, 1998.

Addresses: Record company Universal Records, 1755 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

changed her surname as well, taking Badu from a favorite scat-singing phrase. She subsequently learned that badu means to manifest light and truth in Arabic.

After high school, Badu enrolled at Louisianas Grambling State University as a theater student. Before completing her studies, she returned to Dallas in 1993 and supported herself as a waitress and dance instructor while pursuing a music career. She initially formed a hip-hop duo called Erykah Free with her cousin, Robert Free Bradford. The pair soon earned local opening slots for such touring acts as the Wu-Tang Clan, DAngelo, A Tribe Called Quest, Arrested Development and Mobb Deep, among others. Several recording offers followed, but the one Badu ultimately accepted from Kedar Entertainment was for her alone. Although Bradford eventually received production and songwriting credits on Baduizm, his relations with Badu became unavoidably strained. Badu relocated to Brooklyn after her recording deal with the Universal Records distributed label Kedar Entertainment was secure. Label founder Kedar Massenberg began promoting her by distributing advance copies of her recordings at the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards. He arranged for Badu to record a remake of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duet Your Precious Love with R&B singer DAngelo for the soundtrack to the 1997 film High School High. Her first single, the sensual, hypnotic On & On, was released in January, 1998 and quickly became a number12 pop hit. A month later, Baduizm appeared, rising to number two on the pop album charts and eventually topping the triple-platinum sales mark. An outstanding debut effort, the album was co-produced by the Roots, a hip-hop duo, and featured such stellar session players as jazz bassist Ron Carter. On & On was followed up by Next Lifetime, which also became a hit.

Making the most of her career momentum, Badu received praise as the co-director of videos for On & On and Next Lifetime, the latter featuring her mother, brother and grandmother as extras. She dabbled in acting by appearing in a September 1997 episode of ABC-TVs One Life To Live and portraying a jazz-singing Creole sorceress in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000. During the summer of 1997, she joined forces with funk pioneer George Clinton and hip-stars Cypress Hill, the Pharcyde and Outkast on the Smokin Grooves Tour across the U.S. That fall, Badu released her Live album, which featured her in an intimate concert setting with a three-piece band and a trio of background singers. In addition to live versions of songs found on Baduizm, the album included the new tune Tyrone, a scathing portrait of a soon-to-be-former boyfriend set to a slow-burning beat. Live also featured Badus covers of songs by her R&B forerunners, including Chaka Khans Stay.

Badu was honored in 1998 with Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Performance. She spent the summer of that year on tour with Lillith Fair, the all-female concert series launched by singer Sarah McLachlan. In the midst of all this activity, she also found time for a personal life with Outkast member Andre Dre Benjamin and their son, Seven, born in November of 1997. (The childs name was chosen because seven is a prime number.)

With two acclaimed albums behind her, Badu established herself as a major artist with no end to her success in sight. In interviews, she balanced self-confidence with a sense of her overall role in pop music. Its a blessing, really, she told Billboards Shawnee Smith as Baduizm began its ascent up the charts. I cant take all the credit for it. Its my energy and my voice, but it was a team effort. Im just a midwife aiding in the rebirthing process of music.

Selected discography

Baduizm, Kedar Entertainment/Universal, 1997.

Live, Kedar Entertainment/Universal, 1997.

Sources

Books

Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze, 1998.

Periodicals

Billboard, March 15, 1997.

New York Times, April 6, 1997.

Rolling Stone, February 20, 1997; March 20, 1997.

Online

Erykah Badu, All-Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 21, 1999).

Erykah Badu Biography, Rolling Stone Network, http://www.rollingstone.com (March 13, 1999).

Erykah Badu, Wall Of Sound, http://wallofsound.go.com (May 21, 1999).

Barry Alfonso

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Badu, Erykah 1971(?)–

Erykah Badu 1971(?)

Vocalist

Artistic Activities in Youth

Single Distributed at Awards Program

Directed Music Videos

Selected discography

Sources

Her trademark African head wraps helped inspire a vogue for African clothing in the late 1990s, and her music seemed to carry layers of African American experience, wrapped up and elegantly presented with the latest hip-hop beats. Erykah Badu was a breakout star of 1997, selling over two million copies of her debut album, Baduizm. An original artist, she composed and performed a fusion of soul, hip-hop, and jazz. Both romantic and a bit intellectual, Badu is steeped in African American spirituality, and exudes it in her personal presence.Sometimes, she told People when the magazine named her one of 1998s 50 Most Beautiful Peopleof the year, I do feel quite Queen Nefertiti-ish.

Born around 1971 in Dallas, Badu was the oldest of three children. She was raised by her mother Kolleen Wright and her grandmother on the citys rough south side. Badu told USA Today that she fell in love with the music of Stevie Wonder at maybe age two.Her given name, which she has called her slave name, was Erica Wright. Badu respelled her first name in high school, and in college took the name Badu, which means giver of truth and light in Arabic.

Artistic Activities in Youth

Badus unusual creativity was evident at a young age. She made her own clothes while in grade school, and her mother encouraged the drawings, poems, letters, and writings that filled her daughters school notebooks. Badu performed in community theater in Dallas during her school years and majored in theater at Louisianas Grambling State University before dropping out to pursue music. She has also had formal training as a dancer.

Badu and her cousin, Robert Free Bradford, formed a duo called Erykah Free and performed at progressive nightspots around Dallas. Initially, they struggled to find success in the music business and Badu had to take work as a waitress and as a hostess at Dallass Steve Harvey comedy club. She remained determined and, by the early 1990s, Erykah Free was the opening act for some of the big hip-hop acts of the day, such as Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, and Mobb Deep. Mixing abundant creativity and an astute understanding of the music business, I learned that in order to be a successful entertainer, you

At a Glance

Born Erica Wright in Dallas, Taxas, ca. 1971; daugh ter of KolteenWright; changed first name to Erykah in high school; changed last name to Badu in college, Education: Attended Grambllng State University in Louisiana; studied theater.

Career: Hip-hop/soul/jazz vocalist, songwriter, producer, and video director. Performed with cousin Robert Free Bradford in duo Crykah Free, early 1990s; Erykah Free opened for touring rap acts, early 1990s; signed to Kedar Entertainment label, 1995; released Baduizm, debut CD, 1997; released Live! CD, 1997; appeared on soundtrack of film Eves Bayou/ 1998.

Awards: Two Grammy awards, four Soul Train Awards two NAACP Image Awards, and one American Music Award in 1998, for Baduizm.

Addresses: Label -Kedar Entertainment, 1755 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, NY 10019; .Booking agent-William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

have to be a really good businesswoman, she told Ebony.

Badus big break occurred when R&B executive Kedar Massenburg, who also launched the career of DAngelo, met Badu and noted the strength of her personality. It wasnt so much the music, but more her presence and the way she commanded the audiences. They lookedas though they were hypnotized, Massenburg told Essence magazine. Massenburg signed Badu, as a solo act, to his Kedar Entertainment label in 1995.

Single Distributed at Awards Program

Massenburgs next step was to pass out 1,000 copies of Badusdebutsingle, On and On, atthe 1996SoulTrain Music Awards. And man, when I heard it banging out of somebodys car going down the street that same night, I knew I had something, he later told the Atlanta Constitution. Industry excitement over the innovative young newcomer grew, fueled by a video for On and On and the release of her Baduizm album in early 1997.

Baduizm was a sensation. Badus virtuoso vocals reminded jazz listeners of the tragic vocalist Billie Holiday, not only because of a strong surface resemblance but also in the way Badu seemed deadly serious and mature beyond her years. The albums production used bass-heavy hip-hop beats in a way that, in 1997, was startling and new. These beats were brought down to a quiet level and provided subtle texture for the jazz instrument work (including a contribution from jazz bassist Ron Carter) and the varied poetic structures above them. Badu sang rather than rapped, but the hip-hop flavor of the music was unmistakable. The long opposition between R&B and hip-hop was beginning to dissolve, and Badu was out in front of the trend. She had followed rap since its inceptionand, as she told USA Today, my music kind of fused into a soul/hip-hop understanding. The varied subjects of Badus songwriting, which touched on relationships, spirituality, and social themes, helped her appeal to different audiences.

Badus debut album shot to the top of the Billboard R&B chart, and eventually made it all the way to Number Two on the pop chart, benefitting from the surprising crossover success of the lyrically complex and oblique On and On. Baduizm was reported to have sold 1.7 million copies in a span of three months. During the summer of 1997, Badu was in high demand as a concert performer. At her concerts, she burned sandalwood incense and discussed numerology with her audiences. I like to take a salt bath before I appear in public, to create my own sense of calm, Badu told People. She released her Live! album in late 1997, which was recorded before an invited audience at a New York studio. Live! went platinum and nearly matched the stellar performance of her debut album.

Directed Music Videos

During 1998, Badu was a major presence at music awards programs. She took home two Grammy awards (one for Best Female Vocal for On and On ), four Soul Train Awards, and an American Music Award. She continued to dazzle the music world with her many talents and directed the videos for her songs Next Lifetime and Otherside of the Game. Live! also contained a hit single, Tyrone, that wasdescribed by Ebony as the Black womens anthem for dissing and dismissing do-wrong brothers. Badu sang on the soundtrack of the film Eves Bayou, and made a guest appearance on an album by the progressive hip-hop group the Roots.

Badu gave birth to a son, Seven Sirius, on November 18, 1997. The father was Andre (Dre) Benjamin of the rap group OutKast, with whom Badu had a long-distance relationship. She chose her sons name because it combined a divine number that could not be divided with the name of the brightest star in the firmament. Badu also announced plans to have six more children. Thats right, six more babies in five years, she told Ebony. Time passes so fast. I just follow and have faith. I know that I make the right decisions. In 1999, Rolling Stone magazine selected Baduizm as one of the fifty greatest albums of the 1990s.

Selected discography

Baduizm, Kedar/Universal, 1997.

Live!, Universal, 1998.

Sources

Books

Graff, Gary, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin, MusicHound R&B, Visible Ink, 1998.

Larkin, Colin, ed., The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze U.K., 1998.

Periodicals

Atlanta Constitution, May 21, 1997, p. D9.

Ebony, July 1998, p. 68.

Essence, August 1997, p. 90.

Jet, February 16, 1998, p. 60.

Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1998, p. CAL 4.

New York Times, July 8, 1997, p. C9.

People, May 11, 1998, p. 80.

Rolling Stone, May 13, 1999, p. 76.

USA Today, June 30, 1997, p. D6; March 2, 1998, p. D3.

James M. Manheim

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Badu, Erykah

ERYKAH BADU

Born: Erykah Wright; Dallas, Texas, 26 February 1972

Genre: R&B

Best-selling album since 1990: Baduizm (1997)

Hit songs since 1990: "On & On," "Tyrone"


With her towering headdresses, dignified stance, and a vocal style that echoes that of a jazz legend, Erykah Badu emerged in the mid-1990s as the voice of a new breed of rhythm and blues singer steeped in the smooth soul sounds of the 1970s yet thoroughly versed in the attitudes of 1990s hip-hop music.

Born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in a single-parent home, Badu attended Booker T. Washington High School of the Arts as a child and began her performing career at age four, when she shared the stage with her mother, the actress Kolleen Wright. Trained as a dancer and known in Dallas for her cameos on a local hip-hop radio show under the pseudonym MC Apples, Badu studied theater at Louisiana's Grambling State University. After dropping out to focus on her music career, she was discovered while working as a schoolteacher and part-time dance and drama teacher in Dallas.

In 1994 the singerwho had taken the name Badu as an homage to jazzy, scat phraseologygot her break when she opened for a fellow new soul crooner, D'Angelo, at a Dallas show. D'Angelo's manager, Kedar Massenberg, was impressed with her talent and signed Badu to his newly

formed label, Kedar Entertainment, and paired her with D'Angelo for a cover of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duet "Your Precious Love" for the High School High (1996) soundtrack.

When Badu's debut album, Baduizm, was released the next year, it was hailed as a breath of fresh air in the rhythm and blues world for its innovative mix of jazzy vocals, vintage soul, rap-influenced beats and language, and positive, conscious message. With a supple, sultry voice and mellifluous phrasing, Badu could not avoid comparisons to the jazz great Billie Holiday. Her work with the pioneering, instrument-playing Philadelphia rap group the Roots helped place Badu at the forefront of the Philadelphia-based "neo-soul" movement, a loose aggregation of singers, producers, session players, and rappers centered in the Philadelphia area who looked to classic 1970s soul for inspiration.

Such tracks as "Next Lifetime" and the album's breakthrough hit, "On & On," mix bass-thumping funk and hip-hop-style beats and lyrics with Badu's signature personal mysticism, which touches on aspects of pacifism, Afrocentrism, and Egyptian iconography. Often, Badu, who wrote all but one of the songs on the album, mixes these influences within the span of just a few lines, such as in "On & On," when she languidly sings, "My cipher keeps movin' like a rollin' stone / On & on and on & on / Alright 'til the break of dawn / I go on & on and on & on."

A Live Album Quickly Follows

Badu did not waste time following up the chart success of Baduizm, giving birth to both a live album and her first child, Seven, on the same day, just nine months after the February 1997 release of her debut album. In addition to revisiting a number of songs from Baduizm, the live album introduces two new tracks, most notably the show-stopper "Tyrone," which Badu is said to have improvised during a London show. An audience favorite, the sassy slow-jam soul song is a tirade against an unkind lover who cannot seem to find quality time for his mate. "I just want it to be you and me / Like it used to be, baby / But you don't know how to act," Badu sings, suggesting her time-pressed beau call his friend Tyrone to help him collect his possessionsbut not on her phone.

Paying homage to her idols, Badu also covers classic soul songs by Roy Ayers ("Searching") and Rufus and Chaka Khan ("Stay") on the album, which again mixes her earthy, conscious attitude with a streetwise flair. In addition to solid sales, Badu reaped critical awards in 1998, taking home honors at the American Music Awards, the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, Soul Train Music Awards, and the Grammys.

Badu's versatility allowed her to tour with both hard-core hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan and the female-centric Lilith Fair. Badu also filmed a cameo for Blues Brothers 2000 and a well-received supporting part in the film The Cider House Rules. In early 2000, Badu won another Grammy for her collaboration with the Roots on their song, "You Got Me."

While appearing as a guest on a host of albums from rap artists (Guru, Outkast, Rahzel, the Roots), Badu continued work on her second studio effort, Mama's Gun (2000). The album is an artistic leap for Badu, retaining her jazzy, soulful flavor while incorporating elements of hard-edge funk and psychedelic rock on songs such as the album opener, "Penitentiary Philosophy." With credits that read like a who's who of neo-soul, Mama's Gun finds Badu weaving her tales of self-reliance and strength with a more clear-eyed view of the world. "If you're looking for a free ride, you better run chile / Or you sure won't get too far/ You'd better dance a dance / To make the rain come down/ If you want to be a star," she sings on the bouncy jazz/soul song "My Life." The album's full, vivid funk sound is enriched further by the presence of the legendary jazz vibra-phone player Roy Ayers and the jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who plays on the slinky homage to Badu's sexual wiles, "Booty."

From the 1990s and into the new millennium, Erykah Badu was instrumental in sparking a renewed interest in introspective, socially conscious soul music.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Baduizm (Kedar/Universal, 1997); Live (Kedar/Universal, 1997); Mama's Gun (Motown, 2000).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

The Cider House Rules (1999).

gil kaufman

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"Badu, Erykah." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Badu, Erykah." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/badu-erykah