Erykah Badu is a soul singer, midwife-in-training, and the co-owner of a new production company. On the eve of her 45th birthday, she opens the doors to her orchestrated life.
Story by Vinson Cunningham
Photography by Jody Rogac
Erykah Badu’s house—surrounded by tall trees and mounds of soft, unkempt grass; the window trims painted in a neon yellow that brings to mind some architect’s eyeglass frames—sits close to the shore of White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas. Wind chimes drone outside in an irregular breeze. Inside, tracks from John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band play from a series of invisible speakers that blanket the whole place in sound.
As we sit across from one another in her living room, Badu tells me that the speakers were the first thing she bought when she moved here in 1997, the same year she released her debut album, Baduizm. In the intervening years, as she grew into one of soul music’s foremost visionaries—not just a singer or songwriter, but a producer in the broadest, most creatively generative sense—she has filled the house, piece by piece, with art and the means to create it. Read the whole story.
The April/May 2016 issue hits newsstands on May 10, 2016.
newyorker.com: When Erykah Badu told Zach Witness, an unheralded producer from East Dallas, that she might like to come to his home studio and work on some music, he didn’t dare believe her. Badu, who is forty-five, has lived in Dallas all her life. But she spends a considerable part of every year on the road, as has been her custom since 1997, when she released her début album, “Baduizm,” which sold millions of copies, earned her a pair of Grammys, and made her one of the most celebrated soul singers of the modern era. The word people used back then was “neo-soul,” but nowadays it seems appropriate to omit the “neo”—not because her music has grown more old-fashioned but because it has grown harder to categorize, and maybe even easier to enjoy. Read more.
Miles Ahead — the Miles Davis biopic which Don Cheadle, wrote, directed, and stars in — is quickly approaching its release on 4/1. The original motion picture soundtrack is out the same day, but Robert Glasper is taking the jazz legend’s music a step further than the soundtrack with the announcement of Everything’s Beautiful, an album of “reimagined interpretations” of Miles Davis tunes. The album features Erykah Badu, KING, Stevie Wonder, Hiatus Kaiyote, Bilal, Phonte, Illa J, and John Scofield (a guitarist from Davis’ band), among others. The album will be out 5/27, the day after Davis’ 90th birthday, and features the same 11 tracks from the original soundtrack spanning from 1956 to 1981, but each artist brings their own sensibilities along with their contributions to pay homage to the late great jazz pioneer.