This is the first in a regular column featuring – who else? – women we admire. Today we feature Erykah Badu, one of the foremost musical artists of our time and one of SoR’s favourite singer/songwriters. Attending her concert in London July 2010 was one of the founding experiences of SoR. She gave us the conviction that we too could speak truth to power. Vegan, pro-woman, spiritually enlightening and politically empowering, Ms Badu is a massive inspiration to us all.
Who: Erykah Badu, Neo-Soul Artist
Why We Love Her: Badu combines feminism, veganism, revolutionary politics and her ‘hood’ southern Texan background to rep for women and those criminalised and marginalised by the system. We also admire her fearlessness and open critique of the music industry. She has shown herself unafraid to take artistic risk to make a personal/political statement. She’s a Tweeter, a mother, a lover and a fighter.
What she has accomplished: While her discography so far is already a life time achievement, with her last two albums Badu manages to surpass herself. New Amerykah Part 1 (4th World War) and Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) take the listener on an incredible auditory journey; the lack of wider success can only be explained with the notion that Badu is before her time. Through her genre-shattering combination of hip-hop and neo-soul she delivers subtle political messages that are never imposing or moralising. You could listen to her song “Soldier” and miss the anti-war message; but the one-line is enough to convey the sentiment: “to my boys in Iraqi fields, this aint no time to kill.” In the same song, Badu also briefly refers to women’s sexual and mental health issues, expresses her support for industrial action “to my folks on the picket line, don’t stop til you change they mind” and repeatedly condemns police brutality and corruption. The mantra that begins “The Healer” poetically envokes numerous deities before asserting that hiphop is bigger than religion and “bigger than the government.” Badu suggests that, as a vehicle through which the oppressed can articulate and organise against their oppression, hiphop has the potential to heal the wounds inflicted by the system; wounds which historical forms of governance and traditional religion have both failed to address. Rejecting the materialism and commercialism endorsed by other more mainstream female artists, Badu instead speaks out for her people.