Erykah Badu is largely credited for leading the highly-impactful Neo-Soul movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. She was not alone in her influence, as her fellow Soulquarians and peers such as Jill Scott, India.Arie, Angie Stone and others laid the groundwork for today’s most popular soul and R&B artists.
Still, Badu is considered the foremother of the sub-genre, with countless singers and musicians borrowing from her Billie Holiday-esque tone and cadence, her genre-bending instrumentation, her penchant for mid-tempo, elongated grooves, and her habit of incorporating spiritual teachings into her music.
Summer Walker’s latest release, CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP, garnered immediate comparisons to Badu’s first two albums, 1997’s Baduizm and 2000’s Mama’s Gun, particularly on the Childish Gambino-assisted track “New Type,” where she implores her thugged-out pursuer to call the same buddy Badu did 26 years ago.
Walker is far from the first artist of her class to draw inspo from our favorite analog girl in a digital world. Check out seven more artists directly influenced by the artist born Erica Wright below.
Solange’s seminal work, A Seat At The Table, drew much inspiration from Badu, a fact the Houston-bred songstress stressed while speaking of the Dallas darling during ESSENCE‘s 8th annual Black Women in Music in 2017.
“She is a beautiful reminder that you cannot put us in a box,” Solange said of the “Next Lifetime” singer. “She is empress of the mystic women, ruler of the freaks, our green-eyed desert-stomping goddess,” she added before revealing that she sought counsel in Badu following the release of A Seat at The Table as a “woman who’s written the songs we all have confessed and saluted ourselves in.”
Dreamville’s Ari Lennox has drawn heavy vocal comparisons to Badu thanks to their shared nasal lilt and tremelo delivery. It’s evidenced within the several Badu covers Lennox has conquered over the years, including Mama’s Gun favorite “Green Eyes,” which undoubtedly inspired the DMV songstress’ own take on her track, “Cognac Eyes.”
Age/Sex/Location track “POF” also feels like a spiritual successor to much of Baduizm, namely its first single, “On & On.”
Jillian Hervey of Lion Babe
Similarly to Lennox, Jillian Hervey of R&B duo Lion Babe has been vocally compared to Badu since she hit the scene in 2012. The comparisons became so regular that the singer took to social media in 2018 to acknowledge the similarities between herself and the “Didn’t Cha Know” artist.
“Being compared to another artist is always tricky, but for me this comparison always overwhelms me because of how high I regard her artistry,” she began.
“Her songs continue to score my life and her wisdom has gotten me through, college days, industry ways, and all that comes with being a musician. She is beauty because she is art and creates through every aspect of her being. There is never a time when I am not in the mood for some Badu.
“The thought that people connect us through this universe is truly a blessing. So incredibly honored.”
Like Badu, Cali songstress Jhené Aiko finds a mid-tempo groove hard to pass up, often combining elements of live R&B, Jazz and Hip-Hop into her work, not unlike her predecessor.
The two artists are also connected spiritually, regularly incorporating sound healing into their music with tuning forks, singing bowls, and various chimes beneath enlightening bars that are meant to awaken listeners’ third eye.
Much of Janelle Monáe’s style (both musically and the drip) has been influenced by the work of Badu, their chemistry cemented in 2013 collaboration, “Q.U.E.E.N.”
Monáe’s accompanying body of work, The Electric Lady, undoubtedly drew inspo from Badu’s last two studio albums, 2008’s New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) and 2010’s New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh). Both releases tackled Black Feminist Theory and explored Afro-Futurism, concepts Monáe would later expound upon within her own work.
R&B vocalist Durand Bernarr will be the first person to tell you of Badu’s influence on his sound, as the musician named his 2010 mixtape 8ight: The Stepson of Erykah Badu.
Before finding solo stardom, the church kid sung background for Badu on tour and obviously picked up a few pointers that are put on full display within his most recent body of work, 2022’s Wanderlust. He’s even spoken of his fellow “Badu babies” in the past, recognizing the many artists — like himself — to walk in her footsteps.
Teyana Taylor’s love of Badu goes beyond music, as the Harlem native has previously expressed her admiration of Maria Mexico’s style and humanity. Like Walker, Taylor also allowed Badu to serve as her doula while giving birth to her daughter in 2020, demonstrating the level of trust these young women have for the icon.
In addition to babies and a shared love of Thom Browne, the pair have collaborated on multiple occasions, including for the Ladies First cypher at the 2020 BET Hip Hop Awards and on Taylor’s final album, The Album track, “Lowkey,” which sample’s Baduizm classic, “Next Lifetime.”