Just In Time

06.15.2011

MUSIC

Hours before Erykah Badu hops onstage for a performance with My Morning Jacket at the regal, Baroque Louisville Palace theatre, Life + Times finds the Neo-soul pioneer in a chatty mood backstage.

Later in the evening, her image will be broadcast to millions as part of VEVO and American Express’ unique “UNSTAGED” series, in which performers are paired with acclaimed filmmakers—in this case, Oscar-nominated director Todd Haynes, who follows past collaborations such as John Legend, The Roots, and Spike Lee—for an unscripted, live-streaming experience.

Though here, with only her dressing-room mirror to impress, Ms. Badu is exquisite in appearance—her arms and hands are covered with jewelry, a mix of both precious metals, plastics, and plane pendants, and her voluminous ‘fro is straightened down far past her shoulders, calling attention to her piercing eyes.

And yet, like a well-worn traveler, her clothes are weathered, her jeans even tattered. Those travels—her last album, 2010’s New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), her videography as a director, her inspirations—are the topics of conversation. And when asked as to how the My Morning Jacket collaboration came about, she credits an unspoken unity—being part of the same “tribe,” she says. When asked to explain, she ascribes that unity to a common dislike—of showering. Erykah being… well, you know.

L+T: How’s your non-profit organization B.L.I.N.D. coming along?
Erykah Badu:
It’s great. It’s good. You know, our agenda changes every year depending on what the city’s [Erykah’s hometown of Dallas] need is. Right now, we’re doing a DJ camp and a production camp. We’re teaching youth from age 14 to 18 how to use Serato.

L+T: Very cool.
EB:
Yeah. And the same age group is learning to use the [Akai] MPC-3000.

L+T: Talk to me a little about your jewelry—the planes.
EB:
My jewelry, the planes—it’s the “FLY” line. After I did “Window Seat,” I saw these planes by my girl friend Melody Ehsani. She makes a lot of my stuff, and this is one of the freshest things I’ve seen her do. And we’re doing a line together called “Mothership.” And some of my other pieces came from a street vendor from New Orleans, Dr. Foots.

L+T: So, do you tend to pick up jewelry from your travels? You don’t go to Harry Winston—that kind of thing?
EB:
No, I’ve never done that. I just got different taste. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just like these hand-made things.

L+T: What’s your pre-show ritual? What do you do? Do you just mellow out?
EB:
It depends. What you have to understand is that I’m a performance artist, 14 years, eight months out of a year. And I make a record when I can. And so, I make a bulk of my money, you know, performing and creating onstage. It’s therapy for me, so the ritual is onstage more than before. It’s therapy. I just look forward to it. I just make sure I’m clean in my heart before I go up there. You know what I mean?

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  • pettiho the company

    Love this post. Love Erykah. She’s absolutely right. Possibly a new groupthink for the better. At least for a moment.

  • http://twitter.com/DanaEason_ Dana Eason

    “You know, there are so many layers to art. You can pull back one or you can pull back many, and it depends on what you’re trying to understand or not understand.” – So true…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jucee-Brown/62303051 Jucee Brown

    Awesome…She is definitely a lady of many layers..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1299042173 Stephanie Suckerfree Ellis

    Wow loved this article…Certain things caught my attention enigma, she dislikes showering (funny), group think, nudity, creative control, Brooklyn apartment, and the fact that she is paying for production cos herself. I used to listen to Badu back in HS then I started listening to mainstream and stopped. I started listening again when Window Seat came out and I saw the video and I had an epiphany like I used to love Badu what happened. I started to get some of her songs on Itunes and I listen to her with my eyes closed because that is how I feel music. I absolutely agree with Jennie in we place too much emphasis on the exterior and not the interior when it comes to music in just overall how we perceive people. Most people with eyes should be able to see Badu is a natural beauty in case u dont know check out the 2010 cover of Vibe with her on the cover with nothing but henna and some graffiti.She is such a kickass nonconformist..I absolutely love it. Erykah is Neo soul at its FINEST.

  • Anonymous

    I luv Ms. Badu!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Not to much on this first lil clip, but Lord please or somebody hand me my sun glasses for the clip where is calls herself a dancer because I want to try and see less of that as possible. I say that with apprehension cuz I don’t want y’all to get the wrong idea Life and Times, but y’all straight down bad for sprinkling that blood for them dogs. I mean we all know how Badu come, but da** all in the blog for rap eyes to just gaze on ouch. Somebody call Tyrone and tell him to bring me a blindfold, so I could so cleverly look the other way. She is too much, but what can I expect from a free spirit sitting by the window. Shucks

  • E. Hunter

    Sure wish she’d take that poncho off jack! lolololol Cause lil mama “hold’N”

  • Memyself andi

    Thanks for this new insight into Erykah, especially about her being influenced by such note-worthy female performance artists like Betty (Miles) Davis & Yoko Ono, and that she has directed all of her own videos since ’97. Mz. Badu is simply amazing! Got a chance to catch her in Osaka in 2010. I was both shocked and impressed by what she wore on stage. I would call it a “Hobo Chic” ensemble- a baggy pair of gray sweat pants, a ripped white tee (which appeared to be used in a tug-of-war between the kids) and a top-hat with two “Miss Celie” plaits hanging from underneath, and of course, her beautiful hand-crafted rings and forearm cuffs. Needless to say, she was stunning and enchanting. The entire place was transfixed by her presence and she rocked the house! She’s a true artist, and regardless of what she wears or doesn’t wear, her talent shines through.

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