Elizabeth Lavin's gorgeous photo of Erykah Badu in her home.

Music

Fifty Years of Erykah Badu

The Dallas legend turns 50. Here are a few of our favorite moments, with a focus on how she lifted us all up during quarantine.

Fifty years ago, Erica Wright was born. In her teenage years, Wright rapped under the moniker Apples, a young female MC in The Fresh Ones and The DEF Ones, one of the first hip-hop groups in Dallas. In her twenties, Wright re-introduced herself as Erica Free, a jazz singer who incubated one of the first cyphers for the city’s underground hip-hop community with Cold Cris and Big Ben. Now, she’s known to the world as Erykah Badu, the four-time Grammy winner.

Since last year’s annual Birthday Bash at the Bomb Factory—about a month before the shutdown—the local legend debuted Badu World Market, her online store that hosted The Quarantine Concert Series: Apocalypse, Live From Badubotron, a live music streaming platform. In May, she performed alongside Jill Scott to over 700,000 viewers on Verzuz, a virtual music series started by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. Several months later, Live.e, a Dallas-raised singer, held her album listening party using Badu’s platform. Recently, the local legend participated in #FutureofBlackMusic with Houston musician Tobe Nwigwe.

It makes sense why there have been no announcements about a virtual Birthday Bash. Badu has been busy. In a year characterized by tragic losses from COVID-19, Badu brought joy onto our screens and funds to her band members, who were financially impacted by tour cancellations. Half a century later, Badu is still tethered to Dallas, so we wanted to celebrate her through a quick list of recent accomplishments, and a quintessential performance at the height of neo-soul.

Badu’s “premium” incense.

In pop culture, Badu is known for her ability to foster romantic partnerships with famous musicians like The D.O.C, Andre 3000, Jay Electronica. In an interview with 10 Magazine, she spoke about how her “pussy changes men.” Self-described as her “superpower”, the Dallas singer released Badu Pussy Premium Incense. A Badu World Market exclusive, it sells out in seconds.

Badoula.

On September 6, the singer-songwriter served as Teyana Taylor’s doula for Rue Rose, the second child for the Harlem singer and NBA player Iman Shumpert. In an Instagram video, Badu described herself as the “welcoming committee” for Taylor’s home birth process, where she charged the newborn’s shirts with crystals, sunlight and positive words. The singer told Pitchfork in 2015 that she plans to open her own practice, but only if that is what she desires.

Badu-Rebillet.

Marc Rebillet, the Dallas-raised electronic musician, went viral after his livestream performances at Braindead Brewing captivated millions of users on social media. It was during the first wave of shelter in place orders and Rebillet has since collaborated with Flying Lotus, Snoop Dogg, and Erykah Badu.

She was his surprise guest for a June 27th performance at Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth. After their mind-turning, genre-blending, and slightly erotic performance, the neo-soul legend told the shirtless, silk-robe wearing performer, “You are what Deep Ellum is all about. You are what Dallas-Fort Worth is all about.” A touching moment ended with Badu placing her wire-constructed headpiece on top of Rebillet’s head.

Live performance of “You Got Me.”

Recorded during Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in 2004, this performance is characterized by the presence of both Jill Scott, the original song’s vocalist, and Badu, who replaced her on The Roots’ breakout single. MCA Records recruited Badu to replace Scott because of the universal acclaim surrounding Baduizm. Despite the swap, Badu and Scott clearly held mutual admiration and respect for each other as integral musicians in the neo-soul community. They join The Roots in a definitive performance of one of the most iconic tracks for the musical era that shaped contemporary R&B.

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