Erykah Badu Biography

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Erica Abi Wright, 26 February 1971, Dallas, Texas, USA. This uncompromising R&B performer has made rapid progress in her brief career to date. Initially signed to Kedar Entertainment, Badu effortlessly repeated the label’s blueprint for success that propelled D’Angelo to international stardom in the late 90s. Her 1997 debut album, Baduizm, was largely self-written, and was co-produced with the Roots, D’Angelo collaborator Bob Power and several old friends and colleagues from her days on the Memphis, Tennessee music scene. Among them was her cousin, Free. Before electing to turn solo, Badu had performed alongside Free in the group Erykah Free. The album’s contents, which fluctuated between warm jazz textures and hip-hop and soul rhythms, won almost universal critical praise, with Badu picking up Grammy Awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (‘On & On’) and Best R&B Album. She also found herself on the cover of the UK’s Blues & Soul magazine, and attracted features in magazines as diverse as Vibe, Spin, Time, The Source and Rolling Stone. The album topped the R&B charts and reached number 2 in the Billboard charts. Her profile was raised by a promotional video clip for ‘On & On’ that was scripted by Badu, and based on the movie The Color Purple.

A strong live performer, Badu took the unusual step of releasing a concert album only a few months after her debut. Featuring several tracks from Baduizm alongside cover versions and one new song, the excellent ‘Tyrone’, Live! was another high-quality release from this exceptional singer. Badu then took an extended hiatus to concentrate on raising her son, Seven (from a brief relationship with André 3000 of OutKast), although she guested on hits by Busta Rhymes (‘One’) and the Roots (the Grammy Award-winning ‘You Got Me’), and made cameo appearances in the movies Blues Brothers 2000 and The Cider House Rules.

Badu returned to the charts in autumn 2000 with the hit single ‘Bag Lady’, taken from her second album, Mama’s Gun. The album featured guest appearances from members of the Soulquarians, a loose neo-soul musical collective whose roster included the Roots, D’Angelo and Badu’s new partner, the Chicago-born rapper Common. The album was a less immediate collection than the singer’s debut but was still greeted warmly by critics, and went on to achieve platinum sales status.

In 2003, Badu won her fourth Grammy Award with the Common collaboration ‘Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop)’, which was recorded for the Brown Sugar soundtrack. Later in the year she released the Worldwide Underground EP, a groove-orientated release that marked the singer’s debut for the Motown Records label. The following year she gave birth to her daughter, Puma Rose, and spent the next three years concentrating on raising her children. She continued to write and record during this hiatus, and after stockpiling a large number of tracks returned to the music scene at the start of 2008 with New Amerykah, Part One (4th World War). This excellent album was the most rap-orientated release of the artist’s career and received almost universal praise from critics.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.