Going to see Erykah Badu at the Fox Theater was a sacred experience. First, being in that beautiful space after almost two years in my living room was wondrous. I’m so glad to be back, you guys. I love this job so much. My second concert in the Kind of After But Really in The Middle of the Pandemic was just wonderful.
It’s a privilege and an absolute delight for me to be a passing Indigenous guest in an almost wholly Black space. I learned years ago at a Jill Scott concert that wearing jeans and a t-shirt isn’t going to cut it fashion-wise when every other person in the space is dressed as an absolute piece of art—I felt like a ten-year-old in a room of distinguished adults. If you have never been a part of this energy and experience, I am truly sorry for you. You have never seen the leather boots, the coordinated hats, purses, fucking fingernails and hair, glorious makeup and confidence. It’s wonderful. It’s so good to sit quietly in someone else’s space and just breathe it in. It also made me wear a skirt for the first time in a while. You don’t have to tell me twice.
When her first album came out in 1997 as part of the neo-soul Black hippie rap goodness that included Arrested Development, Macy Gray, India.Arie, Lauryn Hill and Blackstar, Badu predicted her own success. While working in the artistic community in Dallas, she would tell folx after her demo was recorded that she was about to hit it big. When Baduizm hit, she was validated. You can see the level of confidence that she possessed in a shaky video recording from 1995. A short rap turns into the beats of “On and On” (“…and on and on/ My cypher keeps moving like a rolling stone”), and she exhibits the grace and confidence we’ve come to know. She might be a god. She’s definitely a sage, and she’s for sure a rootwork practitioner that you really shouldn’t disrespect.
Physically, musically and spiritually, Erykah Badu presented an image of a Black woman that had been sorely lacking in our culture. Not angry. (Just annoyed at Tyrone.) Not besieged. Not small. Not complacent. Not saved by a whitemare. Not colonized.
Standing taller than all of us with her stature and signature head wraps and big-ass hats, surely she is a poorly disguised extraterrestrial visitor, and we are all better for it.
“You rush into destruction ’cause you don’t have nothin’ left
The mothership can’t save you so your ass is gon’ get left”
I wanted to bring one of my buddies along, but he wasn’t feeling well, so I committed what (to me) is a cardinal sin. I recorded Badu covered in red light, holding court and all of our breath, while she sang my buddy’s favorite song, “I Want You” from 2003’s Worldwide Underground. I didn’t know this was his favorite, but it made his whole day and brought him so much joy. Synchronicity.
This is the magic of Baduizm.
The concert was well-orchestrated with amazing lights and drummers that put you directly in the present moment when Ms. Badu hit the stage. There were versions of her greatest hits woven with newer music. One of the best parts of the evening was the delightful irony of everyone holding their phones up during, “I can make you put your phone down.” We stayed with her the whole time. Her voice was the connection and we were all feeling it. The two grown men who sat beside me (in probably bespoke suits) were weeping, singing along, and cheering.
Amen. Badu. Blessed be. Thanks for coming by and holding space. We needed your medicine. | Melissa Cynova