This month marks the 20th anniversary of one the best albums of all time – Baduizm. Released 11 February, 1997 by Kedar Records, Baduizm introduced the world to the smooth vocals of neo-soul songstress Erykah Badu and marked the beginning of an incredible career.
From the opening bars of ‘Rimshot (Intro)’, the album sails through fourteen tracks of simple funk basslines and catchy hooks tied together with that iconic voice that sounds like syrup. The album exists somewhere between the axis of soul, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B. Unapologetically black and unapologetically herself, Badu allows us 58 minutes inside her mind and soul. Moving through the self-assured message of ‘Appletree’, the smooth gentility of ‘Other Side of the Game’, the pining love of ‘Next Lifetime’ and the philosophical wisdom of ‘Drama’, the album balances between themes of self, morals, love, and ambition. Every time I have listened to this album I have loved it more and more. This album is perfect. Listen to it with your headphones when you’re lying in bed. Listen to it with friends as background music at a dinner party. Listen to it blasting out your car stereo. Whether for the first time or the 500th time, just listen to it.
Baduizm went triple-platinum and resulted in Badu winning two Grammy awards (Best R&B Female Vocal for ‘On & On’ and Best R&B Album.) She followed up Baduizm three years later with Mama’s Gun in 2000 and went on to release Worldwide Underground in 2003, and New Amerykah Part One and Part Two in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Five years later in 2015, she dropped her remix of Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’, which evolved into the telephone-themed mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone – proving that she is still just as artistic and current as she ever was.
While I had listened to Badu in my youth, it wasn’t until my teen years that I really began to connect. I was hypnotised by the production and by her unique voice but it wasn’t until I started maturing that I began to appreciate the message she was sending me. Badu showed me how important self-love is. Badu showed me the positives of being different. Badu showed me that you can be bohemian and black. Badu showed me you can be anything and black. She also showed me how dope head wraps and nose piercings were.
I needed Badu these past two decades and I will need her for the next – if these past years are anything to go by then she will not disappoint. And for anyone who follows her Instagram it is clear to see that she is still killing the game 20 years on and will continue to do so forever.