Category: Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu review: Hip-hop star’s a superhero at the Wiltern

Erykah Badu commanded the stage at the Wiltern, showing off why she’s one of hip-hop’s great visionaries and sharing the night with her new project, the Cannabinoids.

Erykah Badu!!!
As the theme to the ’70s TV show “Wonder Woman” blasted through the house speakers, Erykah Badu sashayed onstage supermodel-style, extended her arms, and broke into the superheroine’s trademark spin, then came to a stop and feigned deflecting bullets with invisible wrist bands. The sold-out crowd at the Wiltern on Thursday went nuts.

Badu doesn’t get much radio play these days, aside from the hit singles from her groundbreaking 1997 debut album, “Baduizm.” Those tracks are staples on R&B channels. But she’s evolved into one of hip-hop’s true MVPs, one of the genre’s most visionary — and versatile — artists.

Before the night was over, Badu would don multiple femme guises: jazz chanteuse shimmying shoulders and sultrily swaying hips; Dirty South B-girl miming the act of locking and loading her gun; Afro-futuristic New Age priestess, arms stretched toward the audience as she soulfully covered “Believe in Yourself” from “The Wiz.” Foremost, however, she was a team player for her latest project, the Cannabinoids, a band comprising friends and longtime musical collaborators.

The Cannabinoids and their leader nimbly worked their way through new material and her vast catalog. The Wiltern’s murky sound system obscured her vocals for much of the set, which made deciphering lyrics to the new songs especially difficult, but didn’t prevent some dazzling moments from taking place.

The band — whose members include producers Jah Born and Rob Free, musical director R.C. Williams, Symbolyc One, Picnictyme, DJs Big Texas and A1, and drummer Cleon Edwards — was top notch as it served a seamless fusion of electronica-drenched jazz, soulful rock and hip-hop.

“The Healer” kicked off the set and was an immediate crowd sing-a-long, achieving dramatic effect when the music fell away to emphasize the words, “When … turn into gods, walls come tumbling…” The sensual “Umm Hmm” was given a chopped and screwed overhaul, while jagged electro flourishes illuminated the revamped “On & On.” On the latter, the muddy sound system created the old-fashioned home stereo effect of vinyl spinning against a dusty needle.

A speed rap version of “Apple Tree” included Badu both scatting and scratching her vocals and sent the crowd into a frenzy, as did an electro funk segment that nodded reverently to old-school hip-hop. At one point, the simmering fusion of laptop wizardry, turntable overlays, and band jamming got so overheated that Badu turned to her musical director and laughingly asked, “What key is this … in?”

On the quieter side, a hypnotic effect was achieved when she pulled the phrase, “There will be a brighter day,” from her ballad “Didn’t Cha Know,” and sang it over and over until it gelled into a hymn.

Not that the evening was flawless. Some self-indulgent scratching of pre-recorded vocals on her computer thwarted the momentum of “Window Seat,” turning an otherwise sublime performance into a bout of needless experimentation.

For sheer shock value and maximum payoff, nothing topped a wholly unexpected cover of Snoop Dogg’s raunchy classic, “Ain’t No Fun,” which she began singing almost sheepishly before amping the room with it. And yes, the women outsang the men on the controversial, arguably misogynistic tune.

Just as Miles Davis is the embodiment of jazz even as he transcends the genre, and Aretha is the Queen of Soul while demolishing genre categorization, Badu’s artistic questing has led her to continually push hip-hop from the inside. She has few peers in that regard — male or female. What keeps her fans, who span race, gender and sexual orientation, so enthralled is a down-home earthiness that shines in her lyrics. She illustrated that quality when, at the show’s end, she climbed offstage to walk and sing in the crowd. Passing one beaming fan, she exclaimed, “Damn! You got some pretty teeth!”

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Coachella 2011: Erykah Badu keeps her cool during glitch-filled set

Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus play surprise DJ sets at Low End Theory

L.A. bassist Thundercat: From sideman to Brainfeeder breakout act

--Ernest Hardy

Photo: R&B singer Erykah-Badu at the Wiltern on Dec. 8, 2011. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Lauryn Hill, Nas, Cypress Hill, Black Star, Mobb Deep to perform classic albums at Rock the Bells 2011

RTB

Traveling hip-hop festival Rock the Bells is taking a page out of the genre’s history books by focusing on a set of game-changing albums for this year's showcase.

Though still relatively downsized from lineups of the past, a who’s who of rap royalty, including Lauryn Hill, Nas, Cypress Hill, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Mobb Deep, Raekwon and Ghostface and the GZA, headline the bill for the eighth year of the multi-city festival that begins Aug. 20 at San Bernardino’s San Manuel Amphitheater.

Continuing last year’s move to highlight influential albums, this year’s batch of headliners will take on entire sets from the albums that made them respected giants in the game: Hill performs “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Nas tackles “Illmatic,” Cypress Hill will do “Black Sunday,” and fans pining for Mos Def and Talib Kweli to reunite as Black Star will be rewarded as they performs their 1998 self-titled debut album.

At a launch party for the concert at House of Blues on Tuesday night, the excitement from eager reporters was matched by the batch of performers who assembled onstage for the announcement.

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Coachella 2011: Erykah Badu keeps her cool during glitch-filled set

00coachellaerykah

For an artist like Erykah Badu, the Coachella mainstage could prove a challenge.

Badu’s live shows of late have earned praise from loyal fans and mixed reviews from critics, one reason being she's the type of performer who likes to take her time, and push at the boundaries of audience expectations.

She is known to riddle live offerings with impromptu vamps and erratic set lists, and is known to close down the house many a time. Shows at both the Greek and the El Rey theaters in Los Angeles were cut off after Badu had exceeded her alotted time; lights were turned on and she was told to end. 

Photos: Panoramas of Coachella 2011

But Badu skipped her usual performance ritual: she still had her customary tea set on stage, but she didn’t have time to light her incense or start to build a slow-burning groove. Instead, after having been only a few minutes late, she launched into “20 Feet Tall,” the lead track from the second installment of her "New Amerykah" series.

“Keep in mind, I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my … ,” she said after having winced at the feedback from her microphone -- a glitch that recurred for the rest of the show.

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Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus play surprise DJ sets at Low End Theory

You could tell from the trail of the tweets. All week long, Flying Lotus had been sporadically updating his 50,000+ plus followers on his recording sessions with the reigning queen of psychedelic soul, Erykah Badu.

“Day 3 on the album with @fatbellybella. I'm starting early today. So far it's sounding pretty amazing. I’m enjoying hearing our universes expand….Producer and artist working in the same studio together! None of this emailing.”

His fellow collaborator, the self-proclaimed “Analog Girl in the Digital World,” was more cryptic but no less effusive: “I’m in music heaven.”

So when Lotus coyly opined, “I have a feeling Low End Theory will be trending again tonight,” the house money had Ms. On and On flocking to the house that Beats built.

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Erykah Badu fined $500 for controversial 'Window Seat' clip

Badu Who ever said justice was swift?

It took more than five months, but Erykah Badu is finally paying for her controversial -- or brilliant, depending on who you ask -- video for "Window Seat."

Badu has paid a $500 fine and will serve six months of probation, a Dallas city spokesman tells the Associated Press.

In the clip, which immediately went viral, she is seen walking the streets of Dallas near the site where JFK was assassinated, slowly stripping; the moment after she takes off her last piece of clothing, the singer is shot by an unseen assassin.

Thanks to a media firestorm and a complaint from a Dallas resident, she was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor, for her "disregard to individuals nearby.”

At the height of the controversy, the singer, who is a native of Dallas, Tweeted: "I would never disrespect JFK. his revolutionary thinking is my inspiration. my performance art has been grossly misinterpreted by many."

"I knew it was a shocking thing that I did," she told us in an interview earlier this summer about the fallout from the video. "So I did expect some kinda dialogue about it. That’s the point of performance art. There is going to be some kinda dialogue. I didn’t think it would become this …well, yes, I did (laughs). I predicted what would happen. It became clearer and clearer as I shed layers. The next step is assassination of character. That’s exactly what happened."

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

twitter.com/GerrickKennedy

Photo: Kenneth Cappello.


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Erykah Badu offers an unapologetic 'window seat' to her soul

Noodles Erykah Badu has never been afraid to express herself.

Since releasing her debut, “Baduizm,” more than 13 years ago,  the Dallas native has found new,  creative -- though sometimes controversial -- ways of expression. From donning head wraps as towering as Marge Simpson’s tresses to shaving all her hair completely off -- she knows how to make a bold declaration.

But it was her last artistic statement that sent tongues wagging and the media afire when she premiered the video for “Window Seat,” the lead single from her newest album, “New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh.”

In the clip, which immediately went viral, she is seen walking the streets of Dallas near the site where JFK was assassinated, slowly stripping; the moment after she takes off her last piece of clothing, the singer is shot by an unseen assassin.

Thanks to a media firestorm and a complaint from a Dallas resident, she was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor, for her "disregard to individuals nearby.”


But Badu is not fazed. The 39-year-old is gearing up for a hectic summer. She has joined this year’s Lollapalooza festival and will reunite with the revamped Lilith Fair tour for a slew of Canadian and U.S. dates. Not to mention that she will be featured as a special guest on Maxwell and Jill Scott’s current tour. All of this on top of launching her own summer trek.

Before Badu plays Los Angeles on Sunday at the Greek Theatre she chatted with Pop & Hiss (after a grueling promo tour in Japan) about the video seen round the world, her latest album and Twitter.

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