It’s Throwback Tuesday again folks! Neo-Soul junkies, step ahead and bow down please! It’s the Queen Of Neo-Soul Miss Erykah Badu gracing our Throwback Tuesday post for the week!
Back in 1995-96, Neo-Soul was just an emerging genre, or more appropriately a movement, with artists like Maxwell and D’Angelo (his 1995 album ‘Brown Sugar‘ was one of the first Neo-Soul albums that I had ever listened to) pushing the envelope and making it big on mainstream radio as well as the pop charts. But it was Dallas born Erica Abi Wright aka Erkyah Badu’s 1997 nouvelle soul début ‘Baduizm‘ that was the landmark album that brought Neo-Soul to mainstream music. Badu’s stunning introspective vocals, reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Lady Day, along with her eclectic fusion of Jazz, Hip-Hop, Blues and Soul with a stripped down, organic yet bass-heavy sound was the missing link between funk and soul from the 70’s and the 80’s and Hip/Hop and R’n’B of the 90’s and 00’s.
Heavily based on Badu’s belief in The Nation Of Islam as well as her African roots, ‘Baduizm‘ became and instant critical and commercial success, debuting at # 2 on the Billboard 200, being certified triple platinum, and eventually winning 2 Grammy’s. The album was packed with classic Neo-Soul gems, including Badu’s début single ‘On And On‘, which went on to become one of her biggest hits, topping the Billboard R’n’B Charts for 2 weeks, eventually crossing over to the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart and the UK Top 40, peaking at # 12 on both charts. The video accompanying the song was a colorful and fun nod to the movie adaptation of Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple‘, and Badu was depicted as a maid in an African-American household.
It was Erykah Badu’s widespread popularity that opened doors for established as well as future Neo-Soul vocalists, many of whom including Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Eric Benet, Ledisi etc would go on to achieve worldwide success. Many an established superstar experimented with Neo-Soul in their music, including the Queen Of Hip-Hop/Soul Mary J Blige (for her genre-bending 1999 album ‘Mary‘ – particularly in the classic single ‘All That I Can Say‘), Aaliyah (for her 2001 album ‘Aaliyah‘, her last studio recording before her tragic death in a plane crash the same year) , Brandy (2002’s highly under-rated ‘Full Moon‘) and Faith Evans (2001’s ‘Faithfully‘). ‘Baduizm‘ could easily be credited as one of the albums responsible for the revival of Soul in the late 90’s.
Erykah followed up ‘Baduizm‘ with an impressive discography of 5 more albums over a period of a decade and a half (including her stunning 2000 sophomore album ‘Mama’s Gun‘), 4 of which reached the top 5 of the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. With a host of awards to her credit, including 4 Grammy’s, Erykah Badu remains one of the most successful Neo-Soul vocalists of all time.
In case you missed out on ‘Baduizm‘, I’d suggest you give the masterpiece a shot. The simplicity, the smooth and sexy feel, the cerebral fusion of some of the most diverse genres of music, along with the emotionally charged lyrics devoid of any pop-driven unwanted gimmicks makes ‘Baduizm‘ withstand the test of time.