On & On
"I don't read music or anything, so when I produce, I go basically by ear." Erykah Badu
Four-time Grammy-winning neo soul singer Erykah Badu, who has often been compared to jazz great Billie Holiday, has charted such smash hits as "On & On" (1997), "Tyrone" (1997), "You Got Me" (with The Roots; 1999), "Bag Lady" (2000), "Didn't Cha Know" (2000), "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)" (featuring Common; was featured and became a soundtrack of the 2002 film “Brown Sugar”) and "Honey" (2007). The Motown artist has released four highly acclaimed studio albums, "Baduizm" (1997), "Mama's Gun" (2000), "Worldwide Underground" (2003) and "New Amerykah" (2008), and recently kicked off a world tour in Detroit, MI. She ranked #100 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll.
Badu is also an actress and has played a diverse range of supporting roles in a number of films, including "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998), "Cider House Rules" (1999) and "House of D" (2004). She is rumored to be appearing with Alan Cumming in the upcoming film "Shifting the Canvas," a drama by writer/director Chuck Griffith.
The 5' vegetarian, famous for her woven and colorful hats as well her eccentric sense of fashion, was named one of "People" magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1998. She has a son with Outkast rapper Andre 3000 (Andre Benjamin) and a daughter with West Coast rapper The D.O.C. (Tracy Curry). Badu also dated rapper Common from 2000 to 2002 and was engaged to him.
Childhood and Family:
In Dallas, Texas, Erica Abi Wright, who would later be popular as Erykah Badu, was born on February 26, 1971. After her father, William Wright, Jr., abandoned the family, Erykah and her two siblings were raised by their mother, Kollen Maria Gipson (Wright) and their grandmother. To support the family, their mother performed as an actress in various theatrical productions. It was also her mother who encouraged young Erykah to paint, dance and act.
Erykah attended Arts Magnet at Booker T Washington High School, in Dallas, Texas, and graduated in 1989. While studying there, she received the nickname "MC Apples" as she had a regular spot rapping on a local hip-hop radio show. She studied theater arts at Grambling State University, in Grambling, Louisiana, but left the university in 1993 to pursue a music career. While struggling as a musician, she taught drama and dance to children at South Dallas’ Cultural Center.
On November 18, 1997, the same day that Erykah's second album "Live" was released, she gave birth to her first child, a son named Seven Sirius Benjamin, whose father is Outkast rapper Andre 3000 (Andre Benjamin). On July 5, 2004, Erykah gave birth to second child, a daughter named Puma Curry, in her Dallas home. Her father is West Coast rapper The D.O.C. (Tracy Curry). Erykah also dated rapper Common from 2000 to 2002 and was engaged to him.
Erykah divides her time between a rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and Dallas, Texas. She is also an activist in South Dallas and has supported the charity organization Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development (B.L.I.N.D.), which provides community-driven development for inner-city youth through music, dance, theater and visual arts.
Erykah Badu became interested in the performing arts at the tender age of 4 and began singing and dancing with her mother at the Dallas Theatre Centre. She wrote her first song at 7 on an old piano her grandmother bought for her.
At age 14, the aspiring singer, who grew up listening to '70s soul and '80s hip-hop and was influenced early on by singers such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan, got a job as a freestyle rapper on a local radio station in Dallas, Texas. During this time, she changed her name from Erica Wright to Erykah Badu.
Badu studied theater arts at Grambling State University, in Grambling, Louisiana, but left the university in 1993 to focus on music full-time. While trying to break into the music scene, she supported herself by teaching drama and dance to children at the South Dallas Cultural Center. She also formed the hip-hop duo Erykah Free with her cousin, Robert "Free" Bradford. Managed by Tim Grace, the head of Legacy Entertainment, the duo landed opening gigs for popular rap and hip-hop acts such s A Tribe Called Quest, Method Man and Arrested Development. They also recorded a 19-song demo, “Country Cousins,” which eventually came to the hands of record producer and record label executive Kedar Massenburg, who arranged for Badu to record a collaboration with soul singer D'Angelo.
On February 11, 1997, Badu's critically-acclaimed debut album, "Baduizm," was released. It won Grammy's Best R&B Album and helped Badu get nominated for Grammy's Best New Artist. It topped at #2 on The Billboard 200 album charts and #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The three-time platinum album spawned Badu's most famous and signature single, "On & On," which spent two weeks at number-one on the U.S. R&B chart and went to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single also won Grammy's Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and was nominated for Grammy's Best R&B Song.
After appearing as herself in an episode of FOX's "New York Undercover" and on the ABC daytime drama "One Life to Live," Badu followed up "Baduizm" with the aptly titled live concert album "Live." Released in the fall of 1997, "Live" quickly went platinum with the radio hit single "Tyrone," which topped at #4 on the U.S. R&B chart and won two Lady of Soul Awards for Favorite Female Solo Single and Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year. The double-platinum album peaked at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and #4 on The Billboard 200.
In 1998, Badu performed as part of Lilith Fair, a touring music festival comprised entirely of female artists, and played Queen Mousette, a voodoo practitioner who hosts a battle of the bands competition, in John Landis' musical/comedy film and sequel to the 1980 film, "Blues Brothers 2000," starring Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman. She also wrote and performed the theme song for the Fox sitcom "Damon."
Badu and rapper Eve collaborated for hip-hop band The Roots' critically acclaimed 1999 song "You Got Me" and won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group. She then contributed the song "Your Precious Love" (a duet with D'Angelo) to the Marvin Gaye tribute album "Marvin Is 60," and made her co-starring acting debut, as migrant worker Rose, in Lasse Hallstrom's "The Cider House Rules," which won her a Black Reel Award for Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress. She was also nominated for a Golden Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture.
The new millennium saw the release of Badu's second studio album, "Mama's Gun." It yielded the top 10 Billboard hit single "Bag Lady," which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and for Best R&B Song. The second single, "Didn't Cha Know," peaked at #28 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart and was nominated for the Grammy's R&B Song of the Year, while "Cleva” peaked at #77 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
Badu subsequently became a featured vocalist for Macy Gray's single "Sweet Baby" (2001) and won a 2003 Grammy for Best R&B Song for the single "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)." Featuring rapper Common, "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)" stayed at #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart for four weeks and won a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for Best Solo R&B/Soul Single. The song was also featured and became a soundtrack of the 2002 film “Brown Sugar,” for which it earned Badu a Grammy nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
On September 16, 2003, Badu released an EP titled "Worldwide Underground," which spawned the singles "Danger" and "Back in the Day (Puff)." She then portrayed a prisoner in David Duchovny's directorial debut "House of D" (2004) and appeared in the documentary/musical "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" (2006), helmed by Michel Gondry. Meanwhile, Badu collaborated with will.i.am singing for Sergio Mendes' "That Heat" (2006) and was featured in Strange Fruit Project's "Get Live" (2006).
"New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)," Badu's third studio album, was released on February 26, 2008, through Universal Motown Records. Like Badu's other releases, this album also received universal acclaim from critics. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, selling 123,884 copies in its first week. The album's lead single, "Honey," was produced by 9th Wonder. Part two of the album is currently slated for a July 2008 release.
On May 4, 2008, Badu kicked off a world tour in Detroit, MI. She will perform songs from her new album "New Amerykah" as well as some of her popular hits.
American Music Awards: Video of the Year, "Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)," 2003
Black Reel: Best Film Song, "Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)" from "Brown Sugar," 2003
Grammy: Best R&B Song, "Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop)," 2002
Black Reel: Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress, "The Cider House Rules," 2000
Grammy: Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group, "You Got Me," 1999
American Music Awards: Favorite R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist, 1998
Soul Train: Favorite Female Soul/R&B Single, "On & On," 1998
Soul Train: Favorite Female Soul/R&B Album, "Baduizm," 1998
Soul Train: Favorite New R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist, "On & On," 1998
Lady of Soul: Favorite Female Solo Single, "Tyrone," 1998
Lady of Soul: Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year, "Tyrone," 1998
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, "On & On," 1997
Grammy: Best R&B Album, "Baduizm," 1997
Lady of Soul: Favorite Female Solo Single, "On & On," 1997
Lady of Soul: Favorite Female Solo Album, Baduizm, 1997
Lady of Soul: Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year, "On & On," 1997
Lady of Soul: Best New R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist, "On & On," 1997