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Erykah Badu


Socially conscious, free-flowing hip-hop soul that embodied a cultural shift.

In 1997, as the Soulquarians—a new collective of socially conscious hip-hop soul songwriters that included Common, The Roots, D’Angelo, and more—began to emerge from the underground, Baduizm shifted the entire R&B landscape. A 25-year-old Texan with a seemingly preternatural sense of groove and a jazzy twang that evoked a modern-day Billie Holliday, Badu brought an approach to songwriting that embodied the sound of neo-soul.

“I just knew I wanted to express myself in a bigger way.”

Erykah Badu

Her approach to spirituality in her music was down-to-earth—as was her style, with flowing dresses and an omnipresent head wrap. But her music was otherworldly, even as she sang conversationally about the concerns of the everywoman, whether working poverty and sociopolitical pressures or the dirty deeds of unworthy lovers. Propelled by the slow groove of her rotating backing band, including bass legend Ron Carter and a then little-known Philadelphia group called The Roots, the cohesion and promise of Baduizm embodied a cultural shift towards Afrocentricism, creating a sonic through line of Black music from ’30s blues to ’70s jazz to soul on the precipice of a new millennium.