When you think about music, it is quite natural to place artists into boxes or genres. Well, Erykah Badu has created her own little niche in the music world. She is known as the “Queen of Neo-Soul” as well as the “First Lady of Neo-Soul.” This, along with her wearing of flamboyantly colored head wraps and fashions, have made her a one of a kind act.

Born as Erica Abi Johnson in 1971, she was raised in the Dallas, Texas area by her single mother. Her mom was an actress performing ion local theatrical productions. This gave Erica an early intro to performing. She would sing and dance alongside her mother at the Dallas theatre center at the early age of 4.

By the age of 14, Erica was working at local radio stations and doing what is called “freestyling.” In this, she was exposed to some major talents like Roy Hargrove. It was around this time that she decided to change her name’s spelling to Erykah Badu. The word “kah” is a reference to the inner self and Badu has a dual meaning. In African (Ashanti) it means the 10th born child; in Arabic, it means “truth & light.”

After graduating from high school, she attended classes at Grambling State University to study theater. In 1993, she left college prior to graduation to pursue and focus on a music career. During this time, she recorded a demo (19 songs) that caught the attention of Kedar Massenburg. Under his tutelage, she paired up with D’Angelo and recorded “Your Precious Love.” This paved the way to a contract with Universal Records. Massenburg Also coined the phrase”Neo-Soul” as well.

Erykah released her debut solo album in 1997 titled “Baduizm.” The album hit Billboard’s charts at #2 and she was immediately likened to Billie Holliday in style. “Baduizm” went triple platinum and won Grammys at the 1998 awards ceremony.

Erykah’s second release was a live album “Live” in 1997 while pregnant with her child, Seven, by Andre 3000 of Outkast fame. Three years later, in 2000, Badu released “Mama’s Gun” that topped R&B charts for over seven weeks. Between 2000 and 2003, Badu experienced a writing drought, but managed to put out “Worldwide Underground” in 2003. This album, designed to “serve one continuous groove” went gold almost immediately on release and received Grammy nominations as well.

Erykah Badu has been compared to Billie Holliday in singing style and was part of the Soulquarians. Badu is associated with several other acts such as The Roots, Outkast, Andre 3000, Jay Electronica and Marquez. Her eclectic writing style had carved her a swath through the music industry and earned her a spot in her own little niche.

Badu is a musical entrepreneur and is a celebrated singer, songwriter, producer as well as an actress who has appeared in Blues Brothers 2000, Cider House Rules and was a major part of the documentary “Before The Music Dies.” She has been signed by at least three major labels in her career including Motown and Kedar Records both under Kedar Massenburg’s management and currently Universal Records.

Once in a while, an artist comes along who ushers in a new era and that describes Erykah Badu to a tee. A truly American institution of musical genius and ability, Badu continues to this day to pioneer new horizons in the industry.

Source by Jordan Lawrence