Written by FrontPage Detroit
Her music has captured audiences around the world. Grammy Award-winning singer, poet, artist and activist Erykah Badu is just as versatile as her lyrics. FRONTPAGE Detroit caught up with the talented artist for an in-depth look at her career, lovelife and plans for marriage, and why family will always come before her music.
Your music is more like an experience with its own identity. Talk about how you created this Badu world.
I really can't explain it. It's just how they made me and I am being honest with expressing who I am and with everything that I do through my art, my community service and through being a mom.
What inspires your creativity for lyrics and instrumentation?
Everything inspires me. The birds outside my window. They wake me up every day with the same melody and the same song. I'm sure there are memoirs of that in my music. A couple of episodes of Scooby Doo also inspires me.
How do you feel your music has served to connect people of different walks of life?
I do that with faith. I never underestimate the people's ability to deem my truth as relevant. Being able to speaking from my heart is a gift [because]I have a a platform to say what people are not able to say. To say things that people need to hear at the time, is like therapy for me.
Speaking of faith, is there one particular faith that you go by?
No. Not at all. I am a magnitude of God, period. And that's in any shape and form. I just encourage people that when they practice loving God and people that they truly practice it.
You've remained consistent to your name, style, fashion and brand. What has been your formula for doing so?
Just following my heart and trying not to be influenced by what others expect of me. And just trying not to limit myself by what I think and trying not to believe everything of what I think about myself. You know half of the bad things people say and half of the good things people say. Just trying to maintain my focus and know who I am at all times. And my style and tastes follow me.
Talk about your desire to delve more into relationships and romanticism on Amerykah Part II.
Well on every album I will talk about a plethora of things and sometimes a variety of things that I am going through as a person and with each stage of my life. I had so much to say at that time in 2008 until I had to split my albums. There was not enough space. I decided to split them sonically and frequency wise in terms of the way they feel and lyrically. In part one, it was social and political. It was me standing on an apex looking at everything in and around me in my world. Part two was me coming from a place inside of myself and expressing the things I felt about my world.
Have you found it difficult sometimes to have a relationship and have a relationship with the industry at the same time?
Well, it's definitely not as easy. I'm never really had a relationship outside of the music business. I am assuming that everyone has their difficulties. But one thing that I do know from being in this business is that it really evolves you quicker. Then we get so much more responsibility and it grows you a little quicker. I find that in my career when we as women aspire to education and career, it takes me a little longer to understand the romantic relationship part because I've never really focused on that. So I would say that it is a little more difficult because of my focus of my music and education. I could probably balance it out a little more and give more in that area.
Will you ever get married and have more children? Is that something you want to do?
It's whatever the Most High decides for me. I've never chosen to fall in love or out of love. So it's something that happens when we are experimenting with love and relationships. Right now, I am in a place where I am a lot more open than I used to be. So who knows? I know what I want and that should be first.
Can you explain the inspiration behind your controversial music video, Window Seat? Throughout the video you take off layers of clothing and become completely naked and at the end you fall to the ground. What is the real message?
In the traditional art of Josephine Baker and Nina Simone there is a form of art called performance art where you act out a certain scene in order to bring focus to the topic at hand. I wanted to bring focus to a topic called groupthink. Groupthink is a term coined by Sociologist and philosopher Irving Janis in 1972 and it simply means that different people are afraid to individually speak out against groups because they are afraid of being ostracized, assassinated, turned away or singled out. All of those things that we fear from wanting to fit in. We do not want to be seen as crazy, different or uncooperative. So Janis gathered that the people who do not speak out are just as guilty as those who are committing offenses because when you do not speak out, you are doing a great disservice to society. It keeps us stagnant when we try to keep up with everyone else. And I did take that walk and it was an impromptu video. I was mainly concerned getting caught by the police and being in trouble. I was paranoid. It was a scary thing shedding my clothing in public. But as an artist and a performance artist, it was a form of protest and activism. I expected people to feel it, understand it and be confused and offended. Whether they felt it or not, the object of performance art is to create dialogue that suggests I don't this or that. People may get the message. As I shed each piece of clothing, I shed a form of thinking brought on by society that no longer involves me. And as I stood clearly naked, unashamed and free of thought patterns that hinder us. People are confused about nudity in America when it is not fashioned for the consumption of male entertainment. It gives it more edge and gives me an advantage as an artist to encourage others to speak out because you cannot censor art.
What are some things that you've seen in the industry that's made you either want to stop or really keep going? What are some of the highs and lows?
Well, I do not really pay attention to what's going on in the industry. It's my job and what I do, but my main focuses are my children and making sure that their well-being is taken care of. I am drawn to the comments of the people are how they feel more so than the industry.
You've worked with almost everyone in the industry. Is there anyone that you haven't worked with that you still want to?
I have to think about it. There are so many wonderful artists today that inspire me.
What's going through your mind when you are on stage in front of thousands?
It depends on the day. Sometimes it just depends on where I am. But once I start singing, I am only thinking about that.
As a woman, did something change when you turned 40?
Yes. A lot of things changed. First it was the psychological part of it. I kind of felt like the music has an age with the industry. Music has an age and a gender, it has a perfect weight and size and color. I did feel like I guess I will retire now. I traveled eight months out of the year for the past 15 years. I felt like I wanted to relax but for some reason I got so much more energy. I feel more youthful as a person. I've been the designated driver in my family and company for 20 years. I feel more like doing something fun. I have an "I don't care what people think" feel. If you think I did not care before, I really do not care now. You shine and you feel good. Let's go.
How do you balance motherhood and the industry and do you want your children to be in the industry?
I do not know. It is really too soon to say whether they will get into the industry. They are very talented. They are bound to do something creative with art with the subject. Whatever they want to be, I am here to guide them and encourage them just like my mom did us. I am here to protect them until they can protect themselves.
Are there any new albums in the works for you?
Always. I am always writing music and doing different projects.
What's your favorite part about Detroit?
My favorite part about Detroit is my homies that live there and just riding around with them.
Erykah will ignite the stage at Detroit's historical Masonic Temple on Saturday, February 16, 2013. Erykah believes in staying in touch with her listeners and tweets regularly. Connect with her @ fatbellybella on twitter.com