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Art & Entertainment

Erykah Badu: The Queen of Soul and Sensibility

JoHoward contributor

One thing music lovers worldwide can agree on is that Erykah Badu’s influence is undeniable.

Like a rushing wind, she burst into the music scene, staking her claim on the hallowed yet underrated soul genre, and embodied it so much that both of them became inseparable.

Soul is Erykah Badu, and Erykah Badu is soul. However, limiting her talents to music is like placing a ceiling over a vast endless sky. It’s impossible. She has broken barriers and taken on non-musical roles that reveal some of the best parts of herself: her passion, nurturing spirit, and deep connection with nature and humanity.

This blog explores the realms of her musical mastery and deftness while shining a spotlight on her recent endeavors, unearthing the profound impact that she continues to make on our hearts.

Born in Texas in 1972 as Erica Abi Wright, Badu was the eldest of three children and was raised by her mother, two grandmothers, and a godmother. Her mother, Kolleen Gipson-Wright, was a singer and acted in the local theater. So, naturally, she was exposed to music and the dramatic arts. Despite her father's absence in her childhood, Erykah had a happy and fulfilled childhood.

At age 7, she learned to play the piano, and by 14, she began to rap at a local radio station and was called MC Apples. Influenced by her mother, she attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, where she majored in theater and dance.

While in first grade, Erica was part of an ensemble of Annie and appeared singing Somebody Snitched On Me. During summer breaks, she would go on to sing at the First Baptist Church Choir. In addition to singing and acting, she would attend different festivals to broaden her African culture and style. This would go on to inspire the iconic tall headgears she famously wears.

Erykah began to exhibit greatness, even from a young age. While in high school, she rejected her name ‘Erica,’ which she thought was a slave name. She replaced Erica with Erykah with ‘kah,’ meaning inner light in Egyptian. She also changed Wright to Badu, meaning manifest light and truth – an Arabic phrase.

She graduated high school and attended Grambling State University, Louisiana, in 1989 to study theater. During her stint there, she rapped over beats her cousin, Robert “Free” Bradford, sent her – while he was studying music production in Chicago. One of Free’s beats inspired her to sing instead of rap. And that was how her music career kicked off.

She dropped out of the university to pursue music, and in 1996, Badu’s first single, ‘On and On,’ hit the airwaves and became an instant sensation. It rose to the #1 spot on Billboard’s R&B chart – the first neo-soul song to ever do so. The following year, she released her critically-acclaimed debut album “Baduizm,” which won multiple Grammy, Soul Train, and NAACP awards.

Since then, she has attained massive success as a singer and songwriter, going on several musical tours and dropping other classic albums. This includes 2000’s ‘Mama Gun,’ 2003’s ‘Worldwide Underground,’ 2008’s ‘New Amerykah Part One,’ 2010’s ‘New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), and finally, 2015’s ‘But You Caint Use My Phone.’

She has broken the barriers of music, venturing into acting and starring in movies such as Blue Brothers 2000, The Cider House Rules, What Men Want, and The Land, amongst others. She is also easily recognizable with her unique fashion sense: colorful prints, bold accessories, and iconic head wraps, which she calls “Badu World Market.”

Badu has been involved with several political and social justice causes using her platform as a highly decorated musician. She has openly spoken against police brutality across the US and worldwide. She has also spoken against racism and actively supports healthcare and education initiatives.

All these components in her life and career have made her a timeless global icon, inspiring the new generation of musicians and songwriters.

Recently, she has taken on a new role that allows her to channel creativity into the world: A certified Doula.

A Doula is a woman trained to provide continuous emotional and physical support to a mother before, during, and after childbirth. Due to their familiarity with roles, Doulas are often mistaken for midwives who provide medical care during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Badu, a mother of 3, has delivered each of her children by home birth. Working as a Doula is backed up by scientific facts from the National Institute of Health. Research has shown that when Doulas attend childbirth, labors are generally shorter, babies are healthier, and there are fewer complications for the mother and child.

Doulas are generally recognized as a coach guiding mothers through the childbirth experience. Since 2001, Erykah Badu has assisted in 50 births and still keeps in touch with all her babies, who call her “Badoula.”

Recently, she has been a second-time Doula to Summer Walker, who gave birth to twins. She has also assisted singer, actress, and dancer Teyana Taylor. Badu’s expansion into maternal care is a testament to her multifaceted nature and unwavering dedication to uplifting others.

Whether through her enchanting music or her advocacy for women's health, Erykah Badu continues to inspire and captivate with her unwavering authenticity and soul-stirring artistry. She embodies the essence of being an artist, pushing boundaries, breaking stereotypes, and using her platform to impact the world positively.

Erykah Badu is a shining example of artistic brilliance, resilience, and unwavering authenticity. Her music has served as a soulful soundtrack to the lives of countless fans and listeners, touching hearts and minds with its profound messages and captivating melodies.

While we recognize her influence on the music scene, we must celebrate her impact beyond music. Erykah Badu has evolved into an ethereal goddess of culture and lifestyle.

Erykah Badu is a gift that keeps giving.

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