Erykah Badu (born Erika Abi Wright, 26.2.1971)
Erykah Badu is a widely respected American singer. Her songwriting combines elements of hip-hop, soul and jazz. She is sometimes referred to as The Queen of Neo Soul. She has also acted in a number of high profile films, including The Cider House Rules.
Erykah Badu: Childhood
Erykah Badu was born in South Dallas, Texas, to Kollen Maria Gipson and William Wright Jr. She was raised by her mother, after the father left the family whilst his children were young. Kollen was an actress and subsequently, Erykah had her first taste of show business at an early age, appearing with her mother at the Dallas Theatre Centre at the age of four.
As a teenager, Erykah would freestyle for her local radio station, along with the likes of Roy Hargrove, the jazz trumpeter.
Badu attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. When she graduated, she went on to study theatre at Grambling State University. In 1993, she left university, in order to concentrate full-time on her music as well as teaching drama and dance to children at South Dallas Cultural Centre.
Erykah Badu recorded a 19-song demo with her cousin, Robert 'Free' Bradford, entitled 'Country Cousins'. As a result, Kedar Massenburg (ex-president of Motown Records) set up a duet between Badu and D'Angelo to sing 'Your Precious Love'. Eventually, she signed a deal with Universal Records.
Erykah Badu: Musical Career
Erykah Badu's debut album, Baduizm, was released in 1997, to great critical acclaim. It debuted at number two on the Billboard chart and the lead single 'On & On' was a Top 20 hit in the UK and the US. Her singing style drew instant comparison to Billie Holiday. The album was awarded triple platinum status and became a Grammy award-winning album.
Badu's second album, Live, was recorded whilst she was pregnant with her son Seven. The album's release coincided with his birth. The track 'Tyrone' became an R&B hit. Erykah also recorded with The Roots on their breakthrough album, Things Fall Apart. She sang on their song 'You Got Me', which was co-written by Jill Scott.
Erykah Badu took a couple of years off from her career to focus on motherhood. Her 2000 return was Mama's Gun, produced by the Soulquarians and Pino Palladino. The album was another critical success for Badu and the song 'Bag Lady' was nominated for a Grammy. She then collaborated with Common of the Soulquarians (with whom she was in a relationship at the time) on 'Love Of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop) which was included on the Brown Sugar soundtrack. Badu won her fourth Grammy for the song.
Following tours in 2002 and 2003, she returned to the studio and recorded Worldwide Underground, She received a further four Grammy nominations for the work, which featured contributions from Queen Latifah and Angie Stone as well as production credits for Dead Prez and Raphael Saadiq.
Badu took another break from her career, during which time she gave birth to another child; her daughter Puma. In 2007, however, she revealed that she had three albums in the pipeline. In November 2007, her single 'Honey' (produced by 9th Wonder) was leaked onto the internet. The subsequent album, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) was released on her birthday, 2008. Later that year, she joined the band My Morning Jacket onstage in Dallas, Texas.
Erykah Badu: Acting Career
Erykah Badu has appeared in a number of films, including Blues Brothers 2000, starring Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and Joe Morton. She also starred in the Oscar-winning Cider House Rules, with Michael Caine, Charlize Theron and Tobey Maguire. In 2004, she appeared in David Duchovny's directorial debut, House of D. the film also starred Robin Williams and Frank Langella. Erykah Badu was also one of a number of artists to appear in Dave Chappelle's Block Party.
Erykah Badu: Personal Life
Around the time that her debut album was released, Erykah Badu entered a relationship with Andre 3000 of OutKast. She had a son with Andre, named seven, born in 1997. In the late 1990s, their relationship ended.
Between 2000 and 2002, Erykah Badu dated the rapper Common.
Badu has a daughter, named Puma, born in 2004. Puma's father is The D.O.C.
Badu's third child, Mars Merkaba, was born in 2009, fathered by her boyfriend of five years, Jay Electronica.