It was either ’99 or 2000. I was headed to the 7th Avenue train station in Park Slope, Brooklyn when I spotted them. Erykah Badu and her then man Common. Him wearing a pair of knit pants, rocking a big ass floppy hat. Like them pants was made outta the type of scarves your grandmother would hand make. And in broad daylight. It was disgusting B. A grown ass man, having their lady influence them to the point that they’re dressing like her. And a rapper no less. That’s when I knew for a fact that Badu was a scary chick.
Having worked on acts signed to Kedar Entertainment, I had the opportunity to hear Kedar Massenberg speak candidly about how brilliant she was, how she took music to a higher level. Also how she was the most difficult artist he’d ever worked with. How she gave him hell. Like the fury of a scorned woman. Queen of Neo Soul reigning supreme over her kingdom, dead serious about protecting the integrity of her craft. Back when she dropped ‘Baduizm’ in ’97, Badu made it clear she came fully equipped with her own lane. Rappa turnt sanga, she dropped a hip hop themed soul, jazz, r&b album built on a foundation of 5 Percenter ideology and featuring Billy Holiday-esqe vocals. ‘Baduizm’ went on to sell over three million copies. She was Hip Hop. She was Neo Soul. And she was much more. Rocking the head wrap and making the burning incense an absolute in her live performances, Badu spearheaded the new afro-centric movement reminiscent of Native Tongue days. So strongly did she make her presence be felt that shortly after her debut, I thought for certain she was going to lose fans like me with all that Moshood and oils wearing. That was never my scene, even though I respected some cats that were built like that. That was right before she went ahead and dropped that ‘Tyrone’ song, on that ‘Live’ album. ‘Tyrone’ was a real ghetto song. So hood. So Hip Hop. And that album continues to be one of the best live albums ever. From that song, and that record on, Erykah let it be known that she’d never leave the streets alone. Let it be known that she’d continue to keep it realer than most rappers too.
She stayed having relations with dope rappers. Common, Andre 3000, the D.O.C., Jay Electronica. She left her mark on them too. Eccentric, rapping on things far more complex than what most of their peers spit about, Erykah’s men fit type to a tee. If her and Jay don’t work out, I could see ‘Lil Wayne being next up to bat. I could almost see why. Looking at all the images I’ve ever seen of her over the years, her natural beauty staring you dead in the face, her eyes staring back harder. Eyes giving away the intense nature of her crazy. Not crazy that’s necessarily in a bad way though, like the kind of crazy that Foxy Brown is, but more like the crazy that might make you regret ever getting involved in her life, crazy in the sense that if you ever crossed her, or if she ever believed she had been crossed, you’d have crazy type problems. Like having you ending up with busted car windows. Ya’ll know what the fuck I’m talking about. You recognize that look the minute you see it. But cot damned how she stays evolving, dropping bangers like that classic ‘You Got Me’ with the Roots song that won a Grammy. And that ‘Mama’s Gun’ album that was pure fires. How ‘New Amerykah’ demonstrated how much further she wanted to push the artform. With each step, how she continues to keep the world intested in how she moves, regardless if one wants to be interested or not. Like Madonna, an ageless pop star riding the newest wave as effortlessly as the last one, Badu will not allow us to forget about her.
This past weekend, unless you were hiding under a rock or was dusted beyond on that d, it was plain as pigs feet that Erykah Badu had these here Internets tightly on lock. The ‘Window Seat’ video directed by Coodie and Chike hit like a megaton. Every other tweet on Twitter had dudes worshiping the artist for how round and plump her fatty is. Chicks worshiped too. Then all types of discourse as to the balls she had to fully disrobe on a busy Dallas street, and on THAT grassy knoll. Some tweeted that the only way she could get our attention was by going nude, others defending her creativity by the way she risked arrest for not having clearance to streak in the buff, and how the video had been shot in one take. How the message of the words in the song and the images in her video were lost because of viewers’ baser selves.
As she continues to master her craft, to venture boldy on her journey, Badu will never allow us to forget about her. Old school, new school, Neo Soul, Hip Hop, it don’t matter. As she continues to date dope rappers, as she shows courage in her steps, as she’s allowed us all to get stuck on her window seat, Erykah’s return is a much needed breath of fresh air. This weekend Badu made us all look. I have a feeling she’ll be making us look for years to come. And as I continue to view the video, as much as she keeps it jingling, I stay stuck on her eyes. How, throughout the entire display, how crazy they look. The kind of eyes that would make one risk the insanity for how much they were being lured in, like a moth to a flame.
So yeah, I’m scared of Erykah Badu. Always have been. I’m glad she’s back.
If you’re having trouble with the embed go here