#BlackGirlMagic – The Mystic Charm of Badu
Written by WURD Radio on January 17, 2016
“I’m cleva and I really wanna grow
But whycome I’m the last to know?”
Oh, those almond-eyed, otherworldly, high-vibrating children of Neptune! I know all about that Pisces energy. My father was born on February 28, and Erykah Badu came screaming into the world on the 26th. I would have loved to have known my father when he was still young and idealistic, dreaming of a career on Broadway, crooning in bars and on the Apollo stage, charming the ladies and wanting to be the voice of a generation. I imagine that he and Badu would have been fast friends if they shared geography and the same artistic era. Kindred spirits, for sure.
There is something compelling about Erykah Badu that was evident from the very first rimshot of her introductory single, “On & On.” ?uestlove and James Poyser may have created the production soundprint that propelled her (and management-mate D’Angelo) into superstardom, but they had nothing to do with the character that Badu brought to the mix. From sung note #1, you got the inkling that this young chanteuse didn’t wait for permission or conform to stereotypes. Espousing philosophies of the Five Percent Nation wasn’t chatter that came through the feminine form on recordings at that time. That was almost the sole provenance of male hiphop artists like Rakim, KRS-One and Brand Nubian. Braggadocio laced with spiritual upliftment. But a melodically-gifted storyteller sounding vaguely like a 90s Billie, wearing big ankh rings and mile-high gelees? Nah, son. Wasn’t happening ’til Badu made it cool. Comfortable. Commonplace, even.
And from there, the image and the sound have stayed in a permanent state of evolution. We can debate all manner of lyricism and beatmaking that have gone into her subsequent projects, but I’ll be damned if you can’t call it catchy. Infectious. Alternately spacey and as down-to-earth as it gets. Badu goes with her gut, always. Daring us to listen. Compelling us to feel. Demanding that we love, and move beyond our own prejudices to feed the need. Our own. What’s happening in the world. And never to be too caught up and wrapped up in expectation to forget to laugh at ourselves and the useless energy other people expend to try and make us feel less than.
Save your finger-wagging about her decision to bear children fathered by several different men. She doesn’t care. Have an issue with her decision to strip down naked along the same path where JFK was assassinated? Your problem, not hers. Surprised by her decision to bear her natural grey hair for cameras and discuss aging gracefully? You must not be paying attention. Badu has no time to wait for you to catch up with or co-sign her moves. She is busy writing, performing, delivering other people’s babies, talking directly to fans, and living life unapologetically on her own terms. And folks are still buying concert tickets, mixtapes, and whatever else she releases into the creative mix.
That’s freedom, folks.
That, most certainly, is a heaping dose of #BlackGirlMagic.