Erykah Badu: rEvolution Part One

*Photo credits – Bode HelmErykah Badu isn’t easily forgotten. Whether it’s her eclectic attire, her philosophically empowered music or her enigmatic personality, once you experience the phenomenon that is Baduizm, her presence becomes tenacious; just ask her former paramours Andre Benjamin and Common. As ambiguous as she is grounded, Erykah Badu conveys a truth that […]

*Photo credits – Bode HelmErykah Badu isn’t easily forgotten. Whether it’s her eclectic attire, her philosophically empowered music or her enigmatic personality, once you experience the phenomenon that is Baduizm, her presence becomes tenacious; just ask her former paramours Andre Benjamin and Common. As ambiguous as she is grounded, Erykah Badu conveys a truth that is definitive, yet frayed. A truth so vivid that it has left critics and fans alike curiously anticipating whether the mother of neo-soul would ever birth another movement. After a four-year hiatus from the spotlight, Ms. Badu is back. However, this time around the “Bag Lady,” accompanied by some of the culture’s most organic producers, is rocking her favorite vintage accessory – Hip-Hop. “Honey,” The 9th Wonder-produced lead single off the forthcoming album, foreshadows the musical growth and consciousness that has become expected of the soul star. But she’ll be the first to tell you, “Don’t get too comfortable.” Evolution is inevitable, but Erykah just might be the last of a new breed. Always innovative, never stagnant; no matter where she goes or what she does, as the third syllable of her name suggests, Ery-kah can do no wrong. Alternatives: You’ve been gone for some years now. What were you doing?Erykah Badu: Gone where?AHHA: You know, gone off the scene.Erykah Badu: No, I’ve been on the scene. It’s just a different side of it. You mean recording?AHHA: Right.Erykah Badu: I’m a touring artist. That’s what I do for a living. I do shows all over the world constantly, and I’m a recording artist on the side. I’ve been doing other projects, but I’ve been mostly touring and working on these albums that I’m putting out in the next year.AHHA: You said albums, so there will be more than one?Erykah Badu: Yes.AHHA: There was a rumor floating around that it’ll be a triple disc. Is that true or false?Erykah Badu: No, it’s not going to be a triple disc. It’s going to be three separate projects. AHHA: Oh okay. Now often times when you take time away from the studio, and you’re traveling around the world, you experience different things. What lessons are you going to share with us on this album?Erykah Badu: Wow. I guess that’s going to be for us to figure out. It may be a little too soon to say. But I will definitely be sharing my experiences, my honesty, my creativity, nakedness, shyness, everything. So in sharing that, there will be a lot of different lessons for us to learn as we listen to it over and over again. AHHA: You’re such a talented artist in that you are able to teach and entertain at the same time. Few accomplish that. Is that intentional?Erykah Badu: That’s just how they made me. And it’s subconscious, pretty much. I’m just a very excited learner, in being excited about what I learn, what I feel; I like to share it. I’ve been given a platform and I take advantage of it.AHHA: By the same token, people can take that overboard. Do people ever come up to you with these supernatural expectations, expecting you to lay hands on them or anything?Erykah Badu: What? Wait, ask me that again. That was funny. [laughs]AHHA: [laughs] Do people ever come up to you expecting you to spit some insightful words or lay hands on them and stuff like that?Erykah Badu: There are all kinds of fans, and all kinds of people with different expectations of me. I’ve had all kinds of requests and things. In what you’re asking, I think the most proper way to answer that would be that some people recognize something in me that is in them. And it is just always so relieving to find someone who feels the way you do, and can express the way you do, that it may become fanatic, you know? So I guess that’s what you’re asking.AHHA: Right.Erykah Badu: And at the same time, I used to get that more, but since “Tyrone” and “Danger,” there is a balance in me as well that people are beginning to see. And I’m not in the media a lot, so they don’t know what’s going on with me. It’s just really good that I haven’t received any negative energy, you know?AHHA: You’re fortunate. You really do seem to evade that part of the industry – the media. Do you think having that ability is a key part to being successful in this business? Erykah Badu: Umm. I don’t know. I think it depends on the person’s agenda, you know? Some people are not bothered by backlash, because it’s part of the climb and the fall. I’m a very sensitive artist; very sensitive about my s**t, so I don’t really desire to be a celebrity. I love to entertain though. I love to perform. So it doesn’t concern me or bother me. I believe half the good stuff they say and half the bad stuff. AHHA: A lot of people feel like we’re missing strong, conscious, talented women like you and Lauryn Hill, whom females have looked to for that insight, like we spoke about earlier. Do you feel that void as well?Erykah Badu: No, I don’t. I can understand that it has a certain effect on the world, but I’m always working. AHHA: Okay, so you don’t really notice it.Erykah Badu: Nah. I’m in it. [laughs]AHHA: Do you have any particular thoughts on the current situation with Lauryn Hill?Erykah Badu: No, not really. I mean, I hope everything is well. I can understand the strain of this business and being very strong, and being a woman as well. I know she just had her fourth or fifth child, so that’s good.AHHA: Oh, that’s exciting.Erykah Badu: Yeah, and that’s why we take off a lot. I’m a mother as well, and that’s first. And if you’re as passionate about your art as Lauryn Hill is, or as Erykah Badu is, then it’s going to stretch across the board. You’re going to be as passionate about your children, or your privacy, or your home life, or whatever it is.I’m sure there’s some passion that she’s deep within right now. I don’t believe in all the rumors and things that [try to] convince me that she’s a crazy person. She’s one of the most noble-minded, intelligent persons I’ve ever seen or heard in my life, so I’m not convinced of anything.  But she’s in something.  She’s in one of her other passions right now.AHHA: Well we’re glad to have you back, and we’ll be happy when Lauryn’s back too. Tell us a little about the new project. Is there any deviation from what fans have come to expect from a Badu album?Erykah Badu: Deviation…hmm. I don’t know what fans have come to expect by this time. I would hope that people would say, “This is 2007. That was 2003.” There should be some possible growth, some possible creativity, some new experiences. I’ve never had a certain format that I stick to. I only knew I had a style when critics told me that I did.This album is special to me because I went deep into my Hip-Hop purse to pull out some of the most creative, scientific, mathematical producers that I could find, because that’s what I was feelin’ at the time. I had been starting to dabble in the studying of quantum physics and wanting to really, I don’t know, participate in the changing of frequencies in different areas of music. And I said, “Okay, the most likely candidate would be Dilla.” So I’m searching through my Jay Dilla mixtapes and pulling things out. [Other producers include] Madlib, Kareem Riggins, 9th Wonder, Sa-Ra, my comrade Jah Born, who did “On and On,” Frequency, my production crew – that’s Rashad Smith, James Poyser, ?uestlove. Am I leaving anybody out? Oh, and this kid name Ciroc. This is a cat I met in LA, listening to tracks at Sa-Ra’s house. So [the album] is just inspired by a new frequency of sound, bored with what is happening, not that it’s good or bad, just bored with it; and wanting to create something new, or use what was there, the atoms that were there, and resituate them a little bit. That’s what I had in mind with this record, and I think that’s what I’m hearing. You would have to tell me what you hear, but it definitely feels new to me.And as I listen more, I see a purpose in [it]. I don’t know if you do, but I’m a person who enjoys having a purpose; and that purpose can change from time to time, moment to moment, mission to mission, but I enjoy having that. And I’m seeing purpose turning into introducing artists and singers to other kinds of music. So, I think this project will do that, along with other things.Click Here for Part 2 of the Erykah Badu interview, where Erykah discusses Hip-Hop and her powerful effect on the fellas.