A Short Convo With... Erykah Badu: 'I Am Hip-Hop'

Erykah Badu is having a moment. The high priestess of avant-garde soul, who will join such musical heavyweights as Lady Gaga, Green Day, and Phoenix onstage at this year’s Lollapalooza in August, is coming off her acclaimed album New Amerykah, Part Two: Return of the Ankh. And her controversial “Window Seat” video is still sparking debate as she gears up for an upcoming tour. We caught up with the elusive Badu and found out why after nearly 15 years in the business she's still an intriguing figure. —Keith Murphy

How gratifying was it to see New Amerykah, Part Two debut at No. 4 on the pop charts amid all the controversy surrounding your “Window Seat” video?

Erykah Badu: I don’t know. It’s been too soon to really process. I’m just working away here. When I found out my album made the top five, I was truly happy about that. I’m happy that people are enjoying it and getting it. I’m getting them a chance to give them the experience I had while I was making it.

Did you consciously try to capture the more jazzier, live instrumental feel of Baduizm on Return of the Ankh?

I remember in one of my earlier interviews for this project I was asked what was the meaning of the title Return of the Ankh. And I told them I felt the same way I did when I recorded Baduizm. But I never said the music was a return to it. I think all my music is soulful, funky [Laughs]. It’s never not been funky. It’s never stopped. It’s unfortunate that when people write things, other people take it and run with it. Then it becomes everybody’s focal point. My only drive is to be honest and I hope my art sparks someone else to evolve. But in the end, it’s art. It’s open for anybody’s interpretation.

There’s one revolving character that can be found throughout your albums—the hustler. Why do you have such an understanding and affection for the guy that tries to make it my any means necessary?

Because that’s my brother, that’s my cousin, my brother, my uncle, that’s my friend, that’s my man. That’s where I lived; that’s who I am.

On Return of the Ankh you show the full spectrum of emotions of being in a relationship, from optimism to heartbreak, anger and insanity. Were you crazy in love during the recording of the album?

Kind of…definitely [Laughs]. It was done over the course of a couple of years. So, I was in love, out of love, mad about love, happy about love and longing for love.

Is Badu's 'Window Seat' Art Or Hype?

The Deconstruction Of Erykah Badu's New Album Cover

How hard was it to record the intense three-song suite “Out My Mind, Just In Time?”

I wouldn’t say any of the songs were hard to record. It’s my joy to do this. It’s therapy for me to do it. I need it. “Out My Mind, Just In Time” starts with “Undercover Over Lover” then goes into “Here I Am Alone” and then the last part explains why. It’s because of the things someone has done. “Out My Mind, Just In Mind” describes the sense that I want to feel good, so I have to get out of my mind where all the anxiety is. There’s nothing painful outside of me. The negative things that I think are the things that keep me back.

What are your thoughts on the negative criticism you received from the mainstream media and some politicians for your “Window Seat” video?

I expected it. I knew exactly what would happen. I even said in the video what would happen. When you watch it, you can peel back one layer or you can pull back many layers. But if you are really watching it, you know what’s happening in the video. I’m assassinated…my character is assassinated, my individuality is assassinated because of the individual freedom that goes with disrobing and taking off all of the things that I’ve learned. I’m going outside of the group and that irritates the group. Because “groupthink” is what flowed out of my head when I was shot. This is about humans being afraid of going outside of everyday thinking because they are afraid of being assassinated or ostracized. This is the biggest crime we commit on one another every single day in life as human beings. It has caused a lot of wars, a lot of struggle and paradox in our lives and in our homes and in our work. Even at my concerts I noticed that when I perform the new songs and no one else is getting up and someone feels it, they are hesitant. This is where we are.

Do you think you were successful in making your overall “group think” point?

I just wanted to bring dialogue to it. And I did. And they are still talking about it. And as long as they are talking about it, we know that they are being exposed to it.

Have you paid the $500 fine for disorderly conduct?

To tell you the truth, I haven’t received a letter in the mail or nothing. All I know is the Dallas chief of the police went to the record store last week and bought my album.  

There are several tracks on Return of the Ankh that give a direct nod to the Notorious B.I.G. Was Biggie heavily on your mind while you were writing?

That’s a really an important question that you are asking because I wasn’t thinking about him. It’s just something that’s in my DNA. See that? It just happened like that. [Biggie’s] music has become a part of me. I am hip-hop.

Are we going to hear any of the unreleased songs that didn’t make the album?

Oh yeah, you know you will.

You were recently announced as one of the performers at this year’s Lollapalooza. Are we going to see a more stripped down band given the live feel on the new record?

I travel eight months out of the year, so I change it up as I feel it. Sometimes it will be a big band and sometimes it’s a small band. There’s no set lineup. But I can’t take full credit for what I do onstage. I have a great band.

Recently we interviewed Luther “Luke” Campbell, who went through his own issues of censorship during his days with the 2 Live Crew. He said that he applauds the statement you made in the “Window Seat” video and that he supports your right to showcase your art without persecution.

You know the kind of person you are dealing with by the way he/she reacted to the video. Thank god, no matter what kind of genre of music we do as artists, [me and Luke] have the same understanding. I’m happy that I can spark that kind of common ground. Overall I can see that a lot of the old way of thinking is dying away. It seems like we are looking at the end of the music industry’s old way of thinking.

How so?

You can just point to the Internet. The artist now has more of a say. You know how I know that? Because I have a major record label deal and if I choose to press send and put all my music out everywhere, I can do it. I think about that all the time. Every time things don’t go the way I think they should, I think about it [Laughs].

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T.I. Releases Short Film For "The Amazing Mr. F**k Up"

T.I. keeps himself accountable for his wrongdoings in the cinematic visual for "The Amazing Mr. F**k Up."

Premiered Monday (Dec. 10) on his series T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle, the track featuring singer-songwriter Victoria Monet, is flipped into a 10-minute-short film. Directed by Mike Ho, the short film stars comedienne Britney Elena, Colombus Short, Woody McClain and model Denise Rodriguez.

Starting at a fancy dinner gathering among friends, things take a turn for the worst when the rapper's other partner invades the feast. On the Dime Trap cut, T.I. calls out himself for his past mistakes and deviances with acknowledgment on how he needs to do better.

"It's amazing all the sh*t I done / Such examples I've been setting for my son / All she did was stay down and have my kid / All the time just to realize I ain't sh*t," T.I. spits. In addition to the rapper flexing his acting chops, the album version of the song includes the infamous scene in ATL between Tip and Lauren London, where his character snatches a necklace he gifted for New New.

The rapper is currently closing out the year on an impressive note as it was revealed that his music has been streamed 276 million times on the music streaming service Spotify. "A modest flex to end my 18th year in this sh*t!!!! Multitudes of Gratitude!!! #NextYearWeGoBigger!!!!," the Grand Hustle emcee tweeted on Saturday (Dec. 8).

Check out the video above


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Extra thx to @brittneyelena @woody_thegreat @mikeho_ @officialcshort and errrrbody involved in bringing this vision to life!!! #TheAmazingMrFuckUP out @vevo after tonight’s episode of Friends and Family Hustle!!! @vh1

A post shared by TIP (@troubleman31) on Dec 10, 2018 at 6:34pm PST


A modest flex to end my 18th year in this sh*t!!!! Multitudes of Gratitude!!! #NextYearWeGoBigger!!!!

— T.I. (@Tip) December 8, 2018

READ MORE: T.I. On 'Madman' Donald Trump: 'On The World Stage, It's A Joke'

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Meek Mill Is Surrounded By His Day Ones In Visual For "Intro"

Self-proclaimed "Champion of the United States" and Philadelphia-bred rapper Meek Mill delivers the official music video for "Intro" on Monday (Dec. 10).

Directed by Kid Art, the three-minute visual frames Meek's mental state as he re-enters the rap game as he continues to battle the justice system as a young, black man. Presumably surrounded by those he considers family, "Intro" retrospectively takes a look at the 31-year-old's come up as a notable rapper out of North Philly.

Juxtaposing his current lifestyle with not-so-distant memories of the trenches, the video shuffles scenes of club confetti, bullet holes, poured out bottles of Ace of Spades and dirt bikes– a presumed nod to Meek's unjust jail sentence.

"Pouring champagne 'cause all my n***s dead/ If they ain't in the graveyard, then they in the feds/ I give a f**k if that crown heavy, put it on my head" spits Meek over the instrumental to Phil Collins' "In The Air."

Last week (Dec. 2) music engineers Young Guru and Anthony Cruz spoke to VIBE about Meek's choice to sample Collins' "In The Air Tonight" on the track, stating that "Meek had this vision" to flip the classic track since he first heard it in Paid In Full and was glad to finally make it happen in a standout fashion on "Intro."

If you haven't already, be sure to take a look at the official music video for "Intro" up top.

READ MORE: Young Guru And Anthony Cruz Discuss Engineering Meek Mill's 'Championships' Album

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Gucci Mane, XXXTentacion, & More Friday Releases You Need To Hear

Another week, another list of Friday music releases. The week's of 2018 are dwindling, but there is a little more time left for some last-minute music releases. From Gucci Mane, to XXXTentacion, and Ice Cube, here are the albums and singles that you need to hear.

Gucci Mane – Evil Genius

Gucci Mane's 13th studio album is here. The rapper dropped his new project, Evil Genius, featuring an all-star list of talent, including, Quavo, Kevin Gates, Lil Skies and 21 Savage. The LP also features production by Metro Boomin, Murda Beatz and Southside.

The latest music drop marks the perfect finish to an eventful year for Guwop. He previously dropped DropTopWop, Mr. Davis, and El Gato The Human Glacier this year. Even so, the rapper suggested that he wants to make a bang with Evil Genius.

"I think this time, this album was like the first time I kind of had more fun making the records," he said during an interview with Beats 1. "With the intentions of just going in the studio and just had fun and this is what came out. But before, I was kind of going and expressing myself, talking through the mic, like I had a lot of my chest. This album was like, let's find the best beat, make the best song and put it out."

XXXTentacion – Skins

In celebration of XXXTentacion's posthumous album, Skins, his estate and friends through a livestreamed event at 9p.m. EST, featuring Trippie Redd, PnB Rock, Ski Mask the Slump God, Matt Ox and more.

There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the late rapper's new release. It's his first since his death in June 2018. The album features only one guest appearance from Kanye West. On the track, which is entitled "On Minute," Ye reportedly addressed abuse allegations brought against X. In support of the album, Kanye also released a Yeezy capsule collection, commemorating their single.

Since X's death he has been regarded as a young legend, gone too soon. His sophomore album ?  peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Listen to Skins below.

Ice Cube – Everythang's Corrupt

Ice Cube is make with Everythang's Corrupt. The album's only feature is OG rapper Too $hort.

Cube already got fan excited after released the one of the LP's single "Arrest the President." The track takes aim at President Trump's corruption and racist policies. The album's cover art features Cube holding a 100-dollar bill in his bloodied hands.

Everythang's Corrupt is Cube's tenth studio album and his first in eight years. It's a follow-up to 2010's I Am the West.

Sneakk Ft. YG & Tyga – "Spray"

New artist Sneak has joind forces with YG and Tyga to bring their new banger "Spray." It's Sneakk's first track released through Def Jam. The single definitely sounds like the new stripper anthem or the perfect track to ride down the block to.

Ahead of the single's release, the rapper's shared a teaser on social media featuring a behind the scenes look at their music video.

Michelle Williams – "Fearless"

Michelle Williams is back. The songstress – best known as a member of the popular girls group Destiny's Child – recently dropped a new solo record entitled "Fearless."

The pop record is an inspirational anthem, encouraging fans to face their fears and chase their dreams. This is a huge moment for Williams, as it is her first single in nearly four years. It also follows an overwhelming year for the singer, who got engaged in Apr. 2018, as well as publicly revealed her battle with depression and mental illness.

Listen to the new track below.

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