By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
If “go with the flow” were a person, she’d look like Erykah Badu.
The self-proclaimed earth mama is set to perform at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 20. The show is part of Badu’s 25-city “Unfollow Me” tour.
The OBSERVER spoke with the Grammy Award-winning artist this week as she hits the road and invites fans old and new into her world.
Badu’s musical résumé includes hits like “On & On,” “Didn’t Cha Know,” “Appletree” and “Next Lifetime.” Her songs “Bag Lady” and “Tyrone” have added to urban lingo, with “Bag Lady” being widely used to describe a woman carrying too much emotional baggage or simply carrying a lot of shopping bags.
Just as TLC did with “Scrubs,” Badu renamed broke brothas who always expect their women to carry them, and their friends, financially. In sending a man packing, many a sistah has quoted Badu’s “You better call Tyrone” lyric.
“Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop),” a song with former flame Common, is featured on the soundtrack of the 2002 film “Brown Sugar.” The film’s cast includes rapper-actor Mos Def, who now goes by Yasiin Bey. Bey joins Badu for the Unfollow Me tour. Bey, like Badu, consistently has set his own tone with his music, refusing to conform to expectations or trends and whims of the industry.
Bey also has starred in other films such as “Something the Lord Made” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Badu, too, has gone beyond music, appearing in films such as “Cider House Rules” and “What Men Want.”
“Yasiin and I are comrades in this beautiful struggle called music,” said the Dallas native. “We use music in the same way: as a platform to tell our stories and to document our history. We have that in common with our whole tribe of Soulquarian.”
Soulquarian is a collective of artists, musicians and producers who created a fusion of neo-soul, jazz and conscious rap and alternative hip-hop. Members include Badu, Bey, Talib Kweli, Common, Questlove and Q-Tip.
“Hip-hop is 50 this year,” Badu said. “There is no other MC that I could come out with that can anoint the stage in a way that I feel [is] necessary this year than Yasiin, so I convinced him to come outside.”
Along with her signature sound, Badu has developed into an entrepreneur. The eclectic artist has ventured into fashion and has a female-focused cannabis product line with Berner, the creator of the popular Cookies brand. Badu will be a featured guest at a Juneteenth meet-and-greet at Cookies Sacramento (1716 J St.) from 5-8 p.m. Monday, June 19.
She is particularly interested in the power of cannabinoids to relax the central nervous system and aid in the birthing process. As a doula, Badu has helped fellow singers Sunshine Anderson and Teyana Taylor bring babies into the world.
“Service is important to me,” she said of her womb work. “It’s one of the only times when I don’t feel my own sh*t. … When you’re in this type of service industry, there’s not a lot of talking, there’s a lot of intuition and listening and feeling and breathing together. It’s rewarding for me and I don’t charge for it.
“I do it because I have a contract with those babies who are not here. I’m the welcoming committee and I want to make their first introduction to this school called Earth as peaceful as possible.”
At birth, Badu said, “At least they can start off with an advantage. So many of us start out at a disadvantage. We have unhealthy parents, there’s a food desert, there’s unhealthy frequencies in the atmosphere, our water system is not clean. There’s so many things that I have an opportunity through my work and being an artist to use some of my resources to make sure that those circumstances are clear and clean for landing and it’s important to me.”
Badu promotes her brands online. Today’s artists rely heavily on social media to promote music, reality TV shows, tours, merchandise – to secure the bag. Social media can be a double-edged sword.
It also can be a hot bed for messiness. Celebrities get into beefs, real or imagined, and fans take sides. Stars seemingly share their whole lives online and that can invite fans to believe they know them and therefore have the freedom to comment on their lives. Badu recently was dragged for posting photos of her rather fit-looking derriere, alongside her adult daughter in a similar pose.
The tour’s name is Badu’s commentary on, or answer to, all those who “talk sh*t.” If you don’t like what she has to say on her platforms, you don’t have to be there for it.
Badu seems to be an ever-evolving artist and human being. The show folks got at the beginning of her career is different from what concertgoers get now.
“They’re gonna get a 2023 Badu,” she told The OBSERVER. “It’s the accumulation of experiences. It’s a smaller me; there are less things attached. I take up less space and it allows people to feel themselves even more.”
Just as she’s focused on taking care of self, she’s also focused on taking care of business.
“The word of the day is integrity. We are rewarded for integrity and just that,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not how talented or how clever or how strategic or technical you are. Sometimes it’s the things that people don’t see; the work that you put in that is not announced or broadcast or promoted.
“When it’s time to get up and you get up. You don’t feel [good], but you still get up. That’s integrity. You have something to do. When you’re able to self-govern and self-manage with nothing in return – I mean those governing times when you were running a bath for yourself. That means something and that’s beautiful. When you’re cooking yourself a meal because you love yourself. Those things are very important. I think we’re rewarded in those areas. Where there’s integrity, there is success.”
Badu said she’s blessed that elements in the universe have aligned to make things happen for her.
“This is a time when I feel just really free and creative, uninhibited and kind of inspired to express who I am,” she said. “I believe my best work is still in me, so I’m pushing through until I get to that. I’m really close.”
Tickets for Badu’s Sacramento show can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-866-448-7849.
But hold up: You can’t use my phone.