16. ERYKAH BADU
By: Jayson Rodriguez
When Erica Wright of Dallas, Texas, introduced herself to the world as Erykah Badu with her debut album, Baduizm, and assortment of ankhs, head wraps and incense, she was improperly cast as neosoul trailblazer. She was certainly fresh, but hardly new. Her voice channeled Billie Holiday, her artistic sensibility rivaled Ma Rainey’s and her sound was thrift shop (sorry, Macklemore) compared to Diddy’s shiny suit.
Ms. Badu wasn’t a relic, by any means. One call to “Tyrone” would confirm that. Yet as the self-proclaimed analog girl in a digital world, the soultress not only eschewed Auto-Tune for pitch effect, she refused to hide behind a celebrity veneer. Her personal relationships (Andre 3000, Common, Jay Electronica) played out in public, she admitted to a bout of writer’s block (The Frustrated Artist tour) and her art—from Mama’s Gun to her New Ameryka series—was all the better for it. MILF’ing ain’t easy.
Gary Clark Jr., Rock ‘n soul singer/guitarist and fellow Texan
“I don't really know where to start when it comes to the lovely Erykah Badu. I don't think anyone could have ever felt we needed to look to the sky to find an extraterrestrial source for holding listeners grounded into the soul of this earth. She is the Godmother of Soul these days, a neighbor and family. The way she has been able to hold it down in such a genuine way is something I've always looked up to. [My] entire crew has mad respect for her.”