ARTIST PROFILE

Erykah Badu

Name: Erykah Badu

Birthday: February 26, 1971

Fav Dish: Fruits and Vegetables

Erykah Abi Wright (born Erica Abi Wright; February 26, 1971), better known by her stage name Erykah Badu, is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, activist, and actress. Badu’s career began after opening a show for D’Angelo in 1994 in her hometown; record label executive Kedar Massenburg was highly impressed with her performance and signed her to Kedar Entertainment

Badu was born Erica Abi Wright in Dallas, Texas on February 26, 1971. Her mother raised her, her brother Eevin, and her sister Nayrok alone after their father, William Wright Jr., deserted the family early in their lives. To provide for her family, the children’s paternal grandmother often helped to look after them while Badu’s mother, Kolleen Maria Wright , worked as an actress in theatrical productions. Influenced by her mother, Badu had her first taste of show business at the age of four, singing and dancing with her mother at the Dallas Theater Center.

By the age of 14, Badu was free-styling for a local radio station alongside such talent as Roy Hargrove. In her youth, she had decided to change the spelling of her first name from Erica to Erykah, as she believed her original name was a “slave name.” The term ‘kah’ signifies the inner self. She adopted a surname of Badu because it is her favorite jazz scat sound; also, among the Akan people in Ghana, it is the term for the 10th-born child.

Upon graduating from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Badu went on to study theater at Grambling State University, a historically black university. To concentrate on music full-time, she left the university in 1993 before graduating, and took on several minimum-wage jobs to support herself. She taught drama and dance to children at the South Dallas Cultural Center.

Working and touring with her cousin, Robert “Free” Bradford, she recorded a 19-song demo, Country Cousins, which attracted the attention of Kedar Massenburg. He set Badu up to record a duet with D’Angelo, “Your Precious Love,” and eventually signed her to a record deal with Universal Records

Baduizm, Badu’s debut album, was released in early 1997. The album was met with critical and commercial success, debuting at number two on the Billboard charts and number one on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Baduizm’s commercial and critical success helped establish Badu as one of the emerging neo soul genre’s leading artists. Her particular style of singing drew many comparisons to Billie Holiday. Baduizm was certified three times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, Gold by the British Phonographic Industry and the Canadian Recording Industry Association.

The album produced four singles, the lead single “On & On” was released in January 1996, and reached number twelve on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts and the UK Singles Charts, as well as making an appearance on the New Zealand charts. The album and lead single also gave Badu her first nomination and win at the Grammy Awards, where On & On won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and the album won Best R&B Album.

Badu recorded her first live album, Live, while pregnant with Seven, and the release of the recording coincided with his birth. The album was released on November 18, 1997 and reached number four on the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

The album was certified two times platinum by RIAA for shipments of over two million copies. The album’s lead single, “Tyrone”, was released in October 1997 and became another R&B hit single. “Tyrone”, lyrically, is a song chiding a selfish, cheap, and inattentive boyfriend.

Badu also collaborated with the Roots (who had previously handled production duties on a number of tracks on Baduizm) on their breakthrough 1999 release, Things Fall Apart. She was featured on the song “You Got Me”, by The Roots and American female rapper Eve, co-written by Jill Scott, the song peaked at 39 in the US and 31 in the UK. The song went on to win The Roots and Badu a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1999.

In early October, Badu released a remix of Drake’s single “Hotline Bling”, and later released a mixtape entitled But You Caint Use My Phone on November 27, 2015, making it available for digital download and streaming exclusively through Apple Music. After one week of exclusive release on iTunes, But You Caint Use My Phone was released to other digital retailers and streaming services on December 4, 2015. The mixtape was released without the knowledge of her label Universal, due to Badu sending the record straight to iTunes. It also marked Badu’s first release under her own record label, Control Freaq. But You Caint Use My Phone received generally positive reviews from music critics and debuted at number 14 on the Billboard 200, selling 35,000 equivalent album units in its first week

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