Erykah Badu--Reviseddoc - Kingsley.doc

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Micqueen Clerger
English 101 – Section 22
Professor Kingsley
November 20, 2011
                      Analyze the Problem, Persist in Change, EVOLVE.

       Erykah Badu’s style and personality invokes that of traditional Neo-Soul artist. Although,

other neo-soul artist may differ from Badu’s ideology of neo-Soul, her repertoire of work has

continually developed into a blend of soul with social awareness and informative thought. Badu

brings a new art to life, more complex than the usual mainstream genres, but vivid once

analyzed. It has become common today to dismiss socially conscientious artists, but it is clear

Badu’s artistic creations, defines herself, redefines Hip-Hop, and focuses primarily on neo-soul.

       Badu embarks this new art, that defines and depicts her African culture but also, carves

her own identity. Her first reaction to redefining her own identity was by breaking and resisting

the social norms. So, she altered her given name Erica, since it derived from a ‘slave name.’ In

Contempary Musicians, its states Badu, “… decided to discard her "slave name." She changed

the spelling of her first name to Erykah, which contained the Egyptian word "kah," meaning

"inner light" or "inner self." Later, she changed her surname as well, taking "Badu" from a

favorite scat-singing phrase. She …learned that "badu" means "to manifest light and truth" in

Arabic. She changed the spelling to make it her own, a deeper message, a name that describes


       Besides changing her name, during her adolesence, Badu enjoyed singing and performing

with her mother, Kollen Wright, a Professional actress. Badu had a vivid, deep grasp tone, that

could appeal to anyone who is listening. Music Critics believe, “Her fluent, highly individual

vocalizing and spiritually-tinged songwriting were welcomed as something fresh and

compelling.” She later pursued performing and visual arts at the Dallas Arts Magnet high school
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and at Grambling State University, a historical Black University with major components in

music and theatre. Badu and Wright, performed together in Dallas. In later years, she was

discovered and received a major break when she opened for D’Angelo, a singer. A year later,

1977, Badu debut her first album, Baduizm. (Contemporary Musicians)

        Baduizm elaborates on her African Culture. She emphasizes on removing the emotional

baggage in your life. In a sense, Badu wanted to create closure for listeners who have ‘baggage’

in their lives and make them remove and sightsee the beauty in this world. In the article, Erykah

Badu it states, “… it [Baduizm] was hailed as a breath of fresh air in the rhythm and blues world

for its innovative mix of jazzy vocals, vintage soul, rap-influenced beats and language, and

positive, conscious message (Kaufman),” indicating that her first album had flourished and was

highly accepted to listeners, in the Rhythm and Blues genre but also conveyed her art to neo-

soul, a genre that combines soul and contemporary Rhythm and Blues. Also, Baduizm elaborates

on her standpoint of religion, relationships, tradition and other ideologies. Overall, the album

focused on embracing her African heritage but also elaborate on where she was mentally and


        Later on, Badu became a Neo- Soul artist. Neo-Soul emerged after the civil rights

movements. In Afrofuturism and Post-Soul Possibility in Black Popular Music article, it states, “

… neo-soul resists a strictly aural reading; it is both a style of music and a self-conscious site of

identity production (David),” Through her music, Badu feeds into the idea of Neo-Soul. It gives

her the ability to focus primarily on what is valuable and should be addressed but also on where

she came from, her roots. In Afrofuturism and Post-Soul Possibility in Black Popular Music

article, it states, “Neo-soul artist speak of figurative, and often literal, return of there own roots.

… Neo-soul certainly communicates with this sort of post-black/post-soul impulse; … it reflects
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on both for the advancement of a progressive sociopolitical agenda (David).” Neo- Soul artist

and the body of work that they produce reflects on creating social change as well as using their

music to return back to their culture, their original roots, and most neo-soul artists refer to Africa

Through her authentic style, which can be subtle at first, once analyzed, it opens doors to another

way of understanding someone else’s standpoint. An article, states, “… In the late 1990s, it was

swaddled in sky-high African head wraps; then she went through a period of statuesque baldness;

now she wears an exuberant Afro. The 32-year-old Dallas native looks like an Egyptian princess

… she writes potent, soulful songs about the pains and joys of life and love, and sings them like

an angel (Organic Style).” She wants listeners to understand and elaborate on her common pains,

focus on the brighter days that will come soon. Besides her voice, the instruments that she uses

to create a vivid beats that gives the song a deep, essential smooth tone. It is something about the

deep beats of a drum that takes her back to her culture, helps her bring off more energy to

listeners and helps her to produce awesome music.

       Besides her artistic creations in music and in her images, she developed an organization

known as Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development (B.L.I.N.D), which lets youth be

able to build their musicians skills, through performing and visual arts, with this organization

that she has created. Organizations that impact the youth, is highly respected, it gives the

opportunity to express themselves and most importantly keep them away from trouble. As an

artist, this makes her different. You see she is passionate about her own music and now for

young musicians, who are passionate about their music, as well.

       Images of Badu, vary from year to year. From Afros, to head wraps, and other creative

looks, she makes sure to relate those images back to her African heritage. On the album cover of

New Amerykah: Part one (4th World War), she initiates a new world for slaves and their masters,
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shows images of musical instruments, black culture, such as Black Power, and other ideas and

valuables that are trapped inside of her. Badu wanted to portray that ‘New Amerykah’ was a new

world for the people invested and involved with Slavery (McDonnell 33). Badu was looking into

the what was going on around her, socially, financially, and politically, and her perspective of

everything (Rizoh).

       On the album cover of New Amerykah: Part two (Return of the Ankh), it shows she has a

suit of armor which shields from ‘the outside world. In Erykah Badu’s ‘New Amerykah 2′

Artwork Demystified it states, “The armor is her old shell and now she’s liberating herself from it

by climbing out of her own head so that she can be reborn (Rizoh).” She is breaking free from

groupthink, a term that defines human living in fear to be themselves because of society and their

beliefs. An Article states, “With Part Two, I’m hovering over me, looking at what’s going on

inside of me ( T h e R a p U p ) . ” Badu is apart of creating these images. She has an idea, her

colleagues elaborate on her ideas. The album covers portrays a story, one depicts what is

happening in society, the other depicts her flourishing and focusing on what is going on in her

own mind.

       Badu made statements in her latest, controversial Music video “Window Seat.” In Dallas

News, Badu stated in an interview, “…"Window Seat" is about liberating yourself from layers

and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution
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(Hank).” The video examines the idea of freeing yourself from society’s unreasonable rules;

rules that make people feel insecure, and demolishing ‘groupthink’. The libertine artist shoots the

video guerrilla style, one shot, naked, through Dealey Plaza where John F. Kennedy and Badu

were assassinated.

        Diminishing ‘groupthink’ is a double-edged sword to me. Your putting your own views

out to reach consensus for a greater good, but another is risking never to be heard again. Society

can diminish people that are against the common beliefs, which has been created and embedded

in our minds. Badu raised awareness that WE are the cause for indulging into these ideas, and

that we need to evolve and stand together no matter the issue. Badu is shot in the end by

‘groupthink’; this is what she states,

“They play it safe/Are quick to assassinate what they do not understand/They move in packs

Ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another/They feel most comfortable

in groups/Less guilt to swallow/They are us/This is what we have become/Afraid to respect the

individual/ A single person with inner circumstance can move one to change/To love herself/To


Indicating her philosophy on what we are doing to each other and how it is impacting us

negatively. She is bringing sense of awareness to everyone, hoping to address this reoccurring

issue and focus on evolving together.

       Lastly, conscious artist, artists that combine their style with content relating to the world

they live in, such as Badu are beginning to diminish, rather than flourishing into a style that

could potentially help the greater good. Her roots help carve different ideas about society and

how it should be addressed, but the beauty of her music is realizing, you should not be restricted

to free yourself. Overall, Badu’s actions, will be memorable in history
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                                                Work Cited

David, Marlo. "Afrofuturism and post-soul possibility in black popular music." African
        American Review 41.4 (2007): 695+. Academic OneFile. Web. 25 Oct. 2011.

"Erykah Badu." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 64. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Gale Biography In
Context. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

"Erykah Badu." Organic Style Jan.-Feb. 2004: 32. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

Hauk, Hunter. "Badu speaks out about 'Window Seat'." Dallas News. N.p., 29 Mar 2010. Web. 25
      Oct 2011.

Murphy, K. "A Short Convo with Erykah Badu: 'I Am Hip-Hop." Vibe (redefining hiphop). N.p.,
        13-Apr 2010. Web. 31 Oct 2011.

" E r y k a h B a d u ’s ‘ N e w A m e r y k a h 2 ′ A r t w o r k D e m y s t i f i e d . " T h e R a p U p .
            N . p . , 1 9 M a r 2 0 1 0 . We b . 1 N o v 2 0 1 1 .

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