20 years of “Baduizm”
In praise of Erykah Badu and that debut album
I’m glad I’m not the only one who has clocked that Erykah Badu’s starry-eyed debut “Baduizm” is 20 years old this month. There’s a good read in Pitchfork about the album and there’s a lovely, warm-hearted, generous piece by Zac Crain from D magazine, in Badu’s Dallas hometown, about going in search of the singer and what he found along the way.
The best music is always evocative. For me, listening to “Baduizm” always throws me back to a certain time and place. I was living in London at the time and the album was the soundtrack days beginning to lengthen and the air starting to gain some warmth. I got a call from Victoria White, The Irish Times’ arts editor at the time, to go along to interview Badu for what turned out to be one of my first pieces for the paper.
She was hugely impressive, a fully formed star who was ready for some serious shape-shifting in the years to come. While most of us thought she’d follow a conventional path, it turns out that Badu was guided by a much different galaxy of stars. She’s never repeated herself, never taken the white line when there was a chance to head for the ditch instead, never followed the rules. There are times when you wonder just what the hell she is doing and then she confounds you by pulling something from the track that hooks you and spins you round.
That happened last year with her remix of Wintertime’s track “Thru It All”. Everything about it was wonky and off-kilter and yet it took your breath away because of the art and craft behind those simple twists and turns. Badu magic in full effect again.
Back in London in 1997, she played at the Cafe de Paris to show off the album and wow the natives. I’ve seen Badu a bunch of times since and it’s always an remarkably free-spirited, savvy, warm and occasionally bonkers affair. She’s still following her own star.