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  Erykah Badu
 

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Click below for an Erykah Badu sample:

4 Leaf Clover

 
Too often, superstars are given too much credit for their contributions to culture.   But in the case of Erykah Badu, she's deserving of every bit of praise heaped upon her bald head.  It was she who set off the new breed of socially aware female artists with Baduizm, and with Mama's Gun she's again moved ahead of the pack of imitators.

The future Badu was born Erykah Wright in Dallas in 1972 and began taking steps towards a music career while enrolled at Prairie View.   Her proverbial big break happened when she met Kedar Massenburg after a concert.   Massenburg, the executive given the credit for breaking nu soul to a mass audience, signed her to his Kedar label and groomed her a female counterpart to D'Angelo.

"On and On" distinguished itself from the clutter of r&b saturating the airwaves with its minimalist beat and thought-provoking lyrics, but what grabbed your immediate attention was that voice: like hearing Billie Holliday transported to 2000, Badu possessed a vocal tone as suited to jazz torch numbres as hip-hop soul.

She became an overnight sensation and symbolic leader of a musical movement along with Lauryn Hill.  A live album affirmed her unique approach to revitalizing soul music, and set up the release of Mama's Gun.

Gun dispelled any hopes that she would suffer a sophomore slump.  But the music did not come easy.  The growth exhibited between Baduizm and Gun came about as a result of a multitude of experiences she went through in the aftermath of her taste of success: a failed relationship, a backlash from those who thought her image was a fraud, pressures from people who wanted her to be a political leader.

In order to get a grip on herself, she went back to basics, eschewing fancy (if functional) clothes, cutting her hair and rededicating herself to her craft.   The result was a stunning work full of emotion and sincerity, the main ingredients of all classic albums.  Following its release she toured to rave reviews.

Erykah Badu's Deepest Grooves

Baduizm (Kedar, 1997)
The start of a legendary career.  Seeing Ron Carter in the credits next to the Roots provides a clue as to her musical vision.  "On and On" and "Next Lifetime" form the hit foundation around which gems like "Apple Tree" are framed.

Live (Kedar, 1998)
Solidified her status as a soul queen.  In an age when most performers are reliant on DATs to bolster their sound, Badu's crack band cuts through covers of Roy Ayers with ease.  "Tyrone" became a leftfield hit too.

Mama's Gun (Motown, 2000)
Difficult not to shower with superlatives.  Threw people for a loop with open-ended groovefests like "Penitentiary Philosophy" and shocked folks with her legit vocal prowess on "In Love With You."  Roy Ayers pops up to lay his vibes on "Cleva" and her catharsis to her relationship with Andre from Outkast, "Green Eyes," must be heard.  Essential.

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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