Tag Archives: erykah badu

Featured Politics

Badu’s Window Seat causes a storm

erykah

A couple of weeks ago we posted about Erykah Badu’s new album and linked to her newest video.  The video, for a track called Window Seat was a teeny bit more controversial than I expected.

In the video, Badu walks through downtown Dallas and strips her clothes off in slow motion.  Now, most people would figure that this was either a) Fake and done on a soundstage somewhere or b) Staffed with extras and cleared with the locals.  It was neither.

Badu just guerilla filmed this video, strolling through Dallas while stripping in public and eventually collapsing at the scene of JFK’s assassination.  A political statement, to be sure.

But let’s go through this step by step.  Start with the video itself:

Why do it at all?

NPR’s The Two Way writes that:

Badu, a Dallas native, tells the Morning News that Dealey Plaza was chosen intentionally because the video — for her song Window Seat — is about “the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely.”

This is entirely possible, but it’s also a bit far-fetched in my mind.  Character assassination has definitely been occurring after this video, with lots of accusations and questions about why Badu would do such a thing.

The Nudity

This is probably the biggest thing on people’s minds.  Why would she get naked?  The Police apparently have begun an investigation after receiving complaints, and it’s possible that Badu will wind up with a fine.  Considering the video clearly shows kids in the immediate area, I understand why parents were concerned.  Nudity is not always a big deal, and some are making the argument that nudity has earned itself a bad rap.

NPR’s Tell Me More quotes TheRoot.com

And then there’s this interesting take from our friends at TheRoot.com, written by Natalie Hopkinson.

And here’s a perspective from one of our own, Tell Me More producer Jasmine Garsd:

“I think the issue here is that she’s chilling naked in a non-sexual way. People are so used to seeing over-sexualized, exploited women on TV so people freak out when they see a woman just naked, relaxing, with cellulite, some tummy (she looks great though) — ESPECIALLY a woman of color. You are supposed to be writhing next to 50 Cent all oiled up. You are supposed to be oversexed, having Nelly swipe a credit card in your butt. You are not supposed to just be naked, walking. It’s too humanizing. And even if you are not a woman of color, you are supposed to be Britney writhing half naked with a snake promising you are a virgin. How is this any less sexual than Beyonce’s new video with Gaga, or any rap video? If anything, it’s less exploitative.“

This is definitely an interesting take on the issue.  Part of me honestly does agree that it’s a bit less exploitative simply because it doesn’t sexualize the nudity.  Badu’s always been a bit unpredictable and also a bit of an exhibitionist.  At the same time, she’s not necessarily known as someone who uses her sex as a way to sell her albums in a way that many stars do today.  In this video, despite her being nude, you don’t get the sense that she’s sexing things up.

Instead, you get the feeling that she’s very comfortable in her own skin.  I honestly think I wouldn’t be nearly as intrigued by this video had it not been for the JFK link.

The JFK Link

Now, Badu quickly went on the defensive after accusations that she was disrespecting JFK.  On the Wanda Sykes Show, Badu made her passionate defence.  Pitchfork quotes her:

Talking to Sykes, Badu defended the video, claiming “that’s what performance art is about… I think my point was grossly misunderstood all over the United States of America.” She also said that she wasn’t doing it to disrespect Kennedy’s memory, calling him “one of my heroes” and “a revolutionary, a rebel.” She goes on to say that Kennedy was “not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt naked truth.”

You can see the video of her interview with Sykes on a BET blog here.

Like I was saying, I don’t think the video concerns me for anything except the faux shooting.  I’m not easily scandalized, and video otherwise is fine.  I get why people are concerned, but Badu is no stranger to controversy so I don’t think it’s unexpected.  After listening to her interview with Wanda Sykes, you can hear she genuinely does respect JFK and that she probably wasn’t trying to disrespect him.  Even so, I think the video would have been a legitimate hit and a more subtle message if she had done this minus the gunshot/collapse at the end.  Just my two cents.

I wonder if ?uestlove had any idea what he was getting himself into when he collaborated with her for this track.

Featured Music

Erykah Badu – Return of the Ankh

returnoftheankh452

Our girl Erykah is back with a new album.  This album, titled New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh, is shaping up to be something quite promising.  I’ve got my hesitations, mainly due to the fact that she has a collabo with Lil’ Wayne (called “Jump Up in the Air and Stay There”).  Oddly enough, The Guardian says that the Lil Wayne track is absent from the album.  Either there was a last minute change, or the UK version of the disc is somehow different than the North American.  I guess we’ll see once I get my hands on it.

[Update: Pitchfork is saying the following

Billboard originally reported that Badu would include a track called “Jump in the Air”, which would feature a ton of guest rappers, including Lil Wayne and Andre 3000. But a Wayne-featured early version of the track leaked, and Badu has since eliminated it from the tracklist. Instead, a version of “Jump in the Air” with just Wayne and Bilal will appear as a web-only bonus track. Sad news for all of us who badly wanted to hear a Badu-helmed posse cut.

Guess that explains the difference.]

For those of you looking for the beats, this album definitely has you covered.  With production (somehow) from J. Dilla, 9th Wonder, and Madlib, you are pretty much guaranteed to find something you like.  In the video below, a track called “Window Seat”, you get to hear ?uestlove jamming on the drums .

If “Window Seat” is any indication, I think I’m going to be quite happy with this album.

Music

The Root questions okayplayer’s relevance

okayplayer is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favourite hip-hop websites. The digital home of cats like The Roots, Jean Grae, Erykah Badu and Common, okayplayer features fresh content of all types, from videos to interviews to news to the occasional free track or two.  The best part about it, though, is the sense of community that pervades the site.  Unlike other, newer hip-hop sites (okayplayer turns 10 next year), okp, as it’s known, has a fiercely loyal readership.  The people who are in to okayplayer are in to okayplayer.  Maybe it’s because legends like ?uestlove and Badu are regular contributors to its boards, or maybe it’s because the site doesn’t feel contrived – it’s obviously the product of a group who remain passionate about good hip-hop.

But given its age, is it still relevant?  On Tuesday, the Root ran an article entitled “Is Okayplayer Played Out?” in which Marcus J. Moore asks:

“… now that the Afrosphere is in full bloom and the very ’90s “neo-soul” genre has faded, a question has emerged: Has okayplayer become the digital equivalent to the old man at the club?”

Fortunately, he answers in the negative. After describing how a couple of other okayplayers feel, Moore offers his own insight:

“Not only is okayplayer still relevant, but it represents all that is good in music. Facebook and MySpace are more personal and allow people to reconnect with long-lost friends and family. But there are few other places on the Web to build friendships with others who share a progressive philosophy about music and get exclusives on new projects directly from the artists who share that sensibility.”

Definetly check the article out for yourself.  But before you do, here’s a classic joint that’ll make you think twice about doubting whether there’s still a place for sites like okayplayer .

Music

This Is The Remix!

After recently profiling some dope new music, it’s time to take the next logical step and provide our loyal readers with the freshest remixes of those very same tunes. After scanning our favourite blogs (see the list to the right), we humbly present our favourite re-interpretations of new heat from Erykah Badu, Cadence Weapon, Buck 65, as well as remixes of classic joints by Beck and Pete Rock. You can thank us later. For now, get your listen on!

Erykah Badu – Honey (Seiji Mix) (New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), 2008)

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Erykah Badu – Honey (DJ Day Remix) (New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), 2008)

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Ever since the incomparable Ms. Erykah Badu announced that “Honey” would be her new album’s lead single, bedroom producers across the interweb have been scrambling to rework it. All Up In Your Earhole has an excellent post on the subject, featuring four different remixes of the song including one by the author himself. Of the two remixes listed above, the second is from the Earhole post, while the first is from Fly Music.

Cadence Weapon – House Music (A1 Bassline Remix) (Afterparty Babies, 2008)

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Although Cadence Weapon flirts with electronica throughout Afterparty Babies, on “House Music” he comes closest to fully embracing the genre’s sound. The above remix completes the process, layering Cadence Weapon’s raps over a full out house beat (check out the 3:40-ish mark if you don’t believe).

Buck 65 – Way Back When (Ghislain Poirier Remix) (Situation, 2007)

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This is probably my least favourite remix of the lot. Poirier’s beat works well with Buck 65’s lyrics, but it isn’t as catchy as the Skratch Bastid original. I suppose this is an example of a remix missing the mark. Either way, give it a listen.

And finally, check out these two remixes of some older classics. The “Where It’s At” remix is long (~12 minutes), but interesting enough to warrant at least one listen and the Pete Rock remix is by Pete Rock, so you know it’s bangin’!

Beck – Where It’s At (UNKLE Remix) (Odelay (Deluxe Edition), 2008)

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Das EFX – Real Hip Hop (Pete Rock Remix) (Hold It Down, 1995)

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Featured Music

Erykah Badu – Live in Toronto

On May 6 Toronto’s historic Massey Hall was graced by one of the most incredibly talented (and partially crazy) performers I’ve ever had the fortune of seeing. You can see the hall below. Massey Hall has been around for a long, long time and has managed to pack in a lot of pretty amazing performers over the years. Even though it’s got a pretty small capacity by some standards (it can hold a little under 3,000 people), it’s still a pretty respectable place to perform.

Erykah Badu rocked the place. She had the entire crowd on the edge of their seats. Periodic shouts of “I Love You Erykah!” rang out from all over the place. It was actually pretty nice to see everyone get so into the show. On the whole, this crowd seemed fairly young. Unlike the Mos Def show a while back, you definitely didn’t see that many older people coming to check things out.

Things started out well enough. Zaki Ibrahim opened for Badu and did a pretty stellar job. This young Canadian songstress has a really soulful voice and a powerful stage presence. It was a great match for Badu. They have similar styles but also strikingly different topics. I found Ibrahim to be a little more political, but a phenomenal performer.

Check out Daylight, by Zaki Ibrahim.

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Badu took to the stage about 30-40 minutes late. Which, by her standards, is actually pretty close to being on time. While waiting for her, I noticed several things. A small table was carefully laid out for her. On the table was a bunch of shakers and maracas, a thermos, and oddly enough, a Macbook with iTunes clearly running on it. We made jokes about how she would just be going up there to hit “play” and would call it a performance piece. Obviously she didn’t quite do that, but Badu made full use of the Macbook, playing random snippets of old hip hop and different songs, and using some sort of digital crank to speed up some samples and make new sound effects.

She also (as you can see in the picture below) used a digital turntable to achieve similar effects. Only utilized on a few tracks, it was still kind of nice to see a singer trying to get more involved with her art.

After that it just got weirder. There was a point where Badu spent at least 20 minutes performing while playing with giant yoga balls. I’m not even sure how to explain it.

She toyed with them, bounced them around. She even hit one of her backup singers with it. She started using one as a metaphor for one of her songs. The bright red ball played the part of the jilted lover, the unrequited love interest, all kinds of things.

It was pretty interesting to watch, and definitely didn’t lack surprises. Repeatedly losing the ball and letting it roll off stage made things even more interesting, because she got to make the day of several fans by letting them give her back her giant orange-red yoga ball.

Check out Honey, by Erykah Badu.

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The backup band was phenomenal. As you can see in the picture on the right, she had a pretty big band accompanying her. Two sets of percussionists, a bass player, flute player, keyboardist, and a set of 4 incredibly talented backup singers. They kept the vibe alive repeatedly, especially when Badu took her mid-set break (she had to change into yoga gear before coming back to play with her yoga balls)

Badu sure knew how to play the crowd too. She spent most of the show playing tracks off her new album New Amerykah 4th World War. It’s not a bad album by any stretch, but definitely not my favourite of hers. I think that there was a stronger emphasis on the instrumental portions of this album too. You see a lot of tracks with a heavy instrument component and her crooning in little snippets from time to time. It still sounds great, but not exactly what you’ve come to expect.

At one point near the end, Erykah got off stage and decided to mingle with her adoring fans. She strolled up and down the aisles of Massey Hall. She stopped at the front row. This girl had been on her feet dancing despite the fact that no one else had been. So Badu stopped and sat on her lap while singing. I think this girl’s head almost exploded.

She kept going up the aisle until she found her next target. She got up on the back of a chair and threw her leg over the shoulder of this guy. She did her best to encourage him to sing, and he seemed to really love it.

She had a little crowd of followers gather as she posed for some pictures before finally getting on stage again.

All in all a fantastic performance. Now Badu is back in the states and continuing her tour. She’s now joined forces with the Roots to tour together. That would be a spectacular show.