Posted by: Bill Jones | September 5, 2008

This Love (below) Triangle Tastes Like (water for) Chocolate

Eryka Badu; love her or hate her she is good. Damn good. She has inspired many an artist, been a muse for others, and even started her own sub-genre. Ms. Badu’s influence in the music world universe stretches way farther than her out-stretched fist fighting off the oppression of her doubters. There is a good ‘ol American Love Story involved.

Andre 3000 and Seven

The exceptional debut disc, Baduizm, was Erykah Badu’s album that all the hip-hop heads played when they needed a break from the “bitches and bling” music that was clogging up the airwaves. Filled with materialism and macho posturing, Hip-Hop sucked…and we wanted a little more soul. Badu’s soul-inspired-Hip-Hop joints cleared the airwaves like a fresh rain washes away all the LA smog we at eargoggles had become so accustomed to. The album came off like a well-executed hip-hop record; she kept it real, she proved her point, but did it through song rather than rap.

Badu continued to grow with Mama’s Gun, her third release. It took the listener on a journey into a deep and tender jucier part of her soul; a place most artists would keep heavily guarded. From the opening whispers that are supposed to be the voices in her head, the listener is made to feel as if they stumbled onto the open diary of a woman who has poured her soul into the pages. At first, you feel bad for invading her privacy, but then you are drawn in and you can’t turn away.

Mama’s Gun concludes with “Green Eyes.” Badu’s brilliant, heart-wrenching, three-parter (featuring Roy Hargrove on trumpet), which was appearently was written just after the break-up of Badu and Andre 3000 (of Outkast), the father of her son Seven. Clocking in at a smidge over 10 minutes, the track is a moody, jazzy trip through the various stages of emotions one goes through when faced with sudden unrequited love.

From the opening lines of the “Denial” movement (“My eyes are green / ‘Cuz I eat a lot of vegetables / It don’t have nothing to do with your new friend”), to the admission of hurt in the “Acceptance?” movement (“Feeling insecure / Love has got me sore / I don’t want no more”), and ending with the raw honesty of “The Relapse” movement (“Don’t you want me? What’s wrong with me / You told me we had a family / Wanna run to mama when you’re down and low / Boy times get tough and there you go”), you can practacally hear the tears streaming down her cheeks as her voice cracks on the songs closing notes.

Reflecting on her breakup with her Andree she noted: “We were together for three years and we have a 3-year-old son named Seven. We are still together as a family. We are not a functioning couple, but we are a family. So therefore, I am not a single mother. My son has both a father and a mother who are very responsible.”

She also confirms that “Green Eyes” is about her breakup. “It is very personal. It’s a three-movement suite, 10 minutes long. I wrote that song in December 1998 and that was shortly after Dre and I decided to separate. It took such a big toll on my emotions that I had to write about it. And Dre thought it was important that I write about it as well. He said, `Yeah, you should write about it so other people can feel what we feel and know how that feels so they won’t make the same judgment on themselves.’ So we thought that it was important as artists that we use our outlet, music, and pray that our freedom of speech and art will aid someone else’s growth.”

The powerful tune details the stages of the breakup. “The first movement is called `Denial.’ I was denying that I was even upset at all.”

Badu continues, “The second movement is called `Acceptance?’ with a question mark behind it. `Am I accepting this?’ I was kind of starting to accept it. And the third movement is called `The Relapse.’ You go through all these stages of heartache and getting over it. The Brother helped me through it is as much as he could,” she laughs. “But that’s something we have to do as adults. We can’t make anybody else responsible for our feelings. I hope the song shares that bit of wisdom.”

She loved OutKast’s Stankonia with the hit Ms. Jackson, the song about a baby’s mama’s mother.

“I am the mother of his first son, so it may have something to do with me,” she admits. “He wanted to give the world something to think about baby’s mama’s mother and baby’s daddy. We are very proud of him, my whole family. My mom just laughs about Ms. Jackson. She and Dre are really pretty cool; they talk.”

She explains that Andre is essentially saying in  the song, “`I apologize, my intentions were good. I never meant to make your daughter cry.’ Nobody wants to do that. He is a very humble, good Brother. He is a really good person.”

Trading Common Sense for Common


In 2000 assending Rapstar Common was in Chicago promoting his new release, eargoggles must-play favorite, “Like Water for Chocolate.” The album had just been released 2 weeks prior; the night held two shows at the House of Blues with a break in between.

During the break in between the shows was where it all started. Common, Common Sense at the time, was go through the beginning phase of his transition from underground Hip-Hop artist and local hero into the mainstream Rap Act for MCA.

Up until this point a major record label had never invested three to five hundred thousand dollars into a Rap Act that wasn’t from the East Coast, West Coast, or talking about negative things surrounding them. With the success of The Roots‘ 1998 smash album, Things Fall Apart, record companies started to look at “Rap” and Hip-Hop from a different point of view.

MCA thought that Common was the right artist at the right time and they were more than ready to exploit explore this new avenue of positive Black Music. He had the Mega-Platinum Lauryn Hill on a couple of tracks, yet he still had never reached gold status with any of his previous 3 albums (Reserection is a must for any Hip-Hop Heavy). Before Like Water for Chocolate his previous albums combined had not toppled the 500,000 (or Gold) sales mark.

Why the success with this album? This was during the time when Record execs thought the whole “Napster Fad” was going away; especially with the whole DRM thing. MCA was throwing an unprecidented level of money into this project considering it’s content. All kinds of merch and promos. Billboards, radio airplay, retail displays, press, and tours. They were allocating more resources to Common than some of their Rock acts of that time. Common was on buttons, stickers, T-shirts, posters…

A promising thing at the time was that they were pushing the album’s release date back because the orders were still coming in. Back in 2000, the number you sold in stores was directly releated to the amount that distribution set for it’s sales goal to the stores before the album dropped. So, if Capital Records had your album at a national retail sales goal of something like 20,000, then that was how many they were expecting to sell-not much. But if the album demand increased at the store level, then the release date is pushed back and numbers re-calculated. Remember Pre-ordering albums? This was a gauge for the Record Companies. Gold and Platinum are certified by how many are sold to stores not by stores. The retail store orders for Like Water for Chocolate were somewhere around 340,000 when the album finally dropped in March of 2000-a prime spot to go Gold.

Swoop

–paraphrasing an account from an unknown source backstage:

Back at the House of Blues, Common had many of his Chicago-based friends of this new “Black-Positive” Movement there supporting him and collaborating with him. Erykah and (Common’s Bandmate) Bilal performed in both of the shows and Mos Def came out as a surprise guest in the first of the two.

In between sets Erykah showed up in Common’s dressing room wearing some extremely tall boots-almost fell down the stairs, stumpled here and there. Along with Bilal the two of them started drinking-smoking and having a good time. She sat down next to Bilal on a couch and that’s when Bilal started in. He eased himself up to Erykah, talking to her, mumbling in a hushed tone in her ear. She was very receptive to the things that Bilal was saying-giving him a look of longing and acceptance. They had a couple more sips of their drinks and moved in closer.

Bilal wanted a refill, asked if Erykah could use one as well, and got up to get them some fresh cocktails. As he got up they looked at each other very intensely. Erykah was giving him that “come back to me baby” look she very seldom, if not ever, used and he exited. As if out of a Notorious BIG lyric Soon as he buy that wine / I just creep up from behind Common walks in to the dressing room, trimmed beard-Kangol hat-nicet fitted suit- to “talk” to Erykah. She was equally receptive to Common’s game as Bilal’s. At this point she was single, Andre and her were and had been broken up for a while, and she was possibly a little lonely. Probably could have been any smooth talking gent at that time that would catch her ear. Few moments later, Bilal returns to the dressing room drinks in hand and a shocked look upon his face. Common had swooped in on his game. He sat down in another chair, sipped the two drinks in his hands and tried to play it off like nothing happened.

By now Common had Erykah fully engaged in conversation, but not as intense as Bilal and Erykah’s had been, it was as if they were old friends catching-up. Anyone in the room could tell that something was happening in there though, whether that was the beginning or not…you could tell that Common had influenced her that night-or she was under some kind of influence.

Electric Circus

Just as Common had influenced Erykah Badu, Badu had inturn influenced Common. On his next album, Electric Circus (2002 MCA), if was instantly apparent that Badu had done something to Common. Whether that was a good thing or not was for the people to decide. The underground rapper who used to tote a 40oz as a young buck was now exploring a whole new sound on this record. Many guests (Badu, Mary J Blige, Jill Scott and even Stereolab‘s Laetitia Sadier) and guest producers (?uestlove, J-Dilla, and the Neptunes) make the album hard to swallow for some of his evergrowing fanbase; here at eargoggles we embraced it. Like some Herbie Hancock records in the 70s (Fat Albert Rotunda, Mwandishi, Man-child…..) he brought in outside influences and ran with it. Not all of the tracks mixed, but if Prince were to do a Hip-Hop record this would be the closest thing to it. Upon a recent roadtrip through the Berkshires some of us at eargoggles (re)listened to the album amongst the beauty that is New England. Wasn’t too fitting, but really funked up the drive. Man, the Red Sox are really getting on our nerves…Go Angels!

Still Ms. Badu couldn’t take the most maddening (or maybe the most endearing) trait the Common has away from him– his unapologetic earnestness. The Black Panther Salute-like-Neo-Soul-Bohemian influences didn’t seem to fit, but what drove Electric Circus was an exploration of personal shortcommings and a lot of musical ambition. With the help of ?uestlove he took Stereolab into the Hip-Hop realm way before Pharrell; where do you think he got the idea? (Pharell is a featured artist on Electric Circus.) Nevertheless, the record is a spacy-good time that will take you to another place in the universe if you aren’t prepared.

Just Be

After disappointing the hardcore Hip-Hop Heads with his last effort, the (over)exploratory Electric Circus in 2002, Common was sent back into the studio with longtime friend (and nobody at the time) Kanye West and Detroit producer Jay Dee (later changed his Name to J-Dilla). The result was the critically acclaimed Be, which leans on Common’s raw lyrical artillery of clever rhymes and metaphors. He went back to his dapper ways, dropped the hippie act and started smooth-talkin the ladies again. He also introduced the world to John Legend, but that’s a whole other post all together.

Creatively, it’s between two albums, Can I Borrow a Dollar and Electric Circus.

Taken from:

Associated Press Mon, May. 23, 2005

AP: Perhaps your fans didn’t believe that the album essentially came from within you, rather more from your then-girlfriend Erykah Badu.

Common: (Laughs.) The album was all me at that time. I go through changes. If you look at my career, I started off holding 40-ounce (of beer) on my first cover. I grow and I go through changes. I think that there was a period in my life that I was trying to find myself, maybe trying to find myself in that relationship too. That was one of my transitional periods and that isn’t always going to fly with the masses.

AP: What do you say to critics who thought you got soft and impressionable during the making of your last album?

Common: Where I’m from and how I was raised, I never got to prove that I’m hard. My music never comes from anyone else.

AP: When you started recording Be, where you already broken up?

Common: We had been broken up for a little while, and it was a time where I was really grounded. It came to me at a hard time in life where I was really hungry.

AP: What are you trying to convey artistically on Be?

Common: That first of all, I’m a human, I’m a person. I experience different emotions like love, sexuality, creativity. I just want to show the sides of who I am as a being. I tried to not think about my sales, what I’ve done in the past. I was in the moment when making this album.

AP: After all these years, how do you keep on reinventing yourself and not get bored like most artists?

Common: I try to find new challenges, new things that excite me. On my last album it was about breaking boundaries and convention in hip-hop. Part of the challenge this time was that people where kind of doubting me, so that got me hungry.

AP: Would you ever consider having another public relationship like you did with Erykah Badu?

Common: I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t hide behind a relationship either, but one thing I do think is that sometimes you open up so much that you allow other energies to come in. And if it’s vulnerable at that time, then, you know, it can get messed up.

Badu 2008

“Don’t listen to the tabloids, they’re not always true, but what they say about me and the men? Yeah, that’s true,” pans Badu on the taping of her February 2008 VH-1 Soul’s Storytellerss. “I got ’em wearing crochet pants, but they still soldiers.” With thunderous laughter and knowing chuckles from the female fans in the crowd, Badu introduces her next single off the album “Soldier 7.”

What is it that they say about Badu and her men?

They ride bicycles????

Erykah Badu used to be a strong woman, with strong woman ideals and some sort of cred now she may be sending out the wrong message by becoming Hip-Hop’s town bicycle.

She is now pregnant with her 3rd child. No big deal, congrats! That’s wonderful. But…the father is that guy Jay Electronica, a self-proclaimed genius–which nobody has heard of right?. Not only that though; it’s her 3rd different father. Happens all the time…but she was supposed to be a role-model some say. All kinds of people in the Hip-Hop world universe are in an uproar. Which caused Erykah to post this.

How dare you disrespect the queendom and my children and my intelligence.

Ive never been so disgusted in all of my life. There is no other place i used to enjoy more I post no where else .you guys have taken an all time low , tho.

I am an excellent mother and resent all of the negative comments and insults on my character. I put much time and thought into having and raising my children. Ive had the honors of having 2 home births and 2 wonderful partners by my side.

Every relationship i have been in was because i loved the person dearly and was dedicated to us “exclusively” for a number of years. The fathers of my children are my brothers and friends .we have a great deal of respect for one another and always will.

We love our children to no end. We took our own “vows” and continue to uphold them. And that is what that is .

Is it really “good” to stay in a relationship where both parties are unfulfilled , longing for relief , bringing one another down as a result of improper training , creating bad energy and experiences for the child to repeat ? (not to mention breeding deceit and anger and resentment )

How many of you grew up in 2 parent homes that were miserable as fuck ? Or 2 parent homes that were not perfect but worked? How many grew up in one parent homes where the mother worked hard to make sure you were cared for but she wasnt quite happy? How about a home where the father was the main care giver and did the best he could -lacking nurture? How many of you have a sibling that has a different father or mother? Does he or she mean less to you? How many of you have more than 1 mother or father of your own children ? How many of you had /or / are parents responsible enough to make good decisions for yourself and your children ,that dont quite fit any of these descriptions?
How many of you stay in unhealthy relationships for fear of going to hell?

Birth control lol- could have 10 babies instead of 2 .your opinions lack experience and are not only careless but also very uninformed and immature. Nothing is sacred here . And i see why.

If i loose you as a fan because i want to continue to have children then fuck off-who needs you-certainly not me |kick rocks ¦ call tyrone ¦ pack light â. Bite me

I have defended myself here on this site and hurled a few insults .. But only in response to your insults of my music , my clothes , my lyrics , my hair , my being a woman , my spirit, my choices of partners.

And if this post is not clear
kiss my placenta.

Nice.

Here’s a recent interview from

GIANT MAGAZINE

“I know about the backlash, the ‘Erykah Badu, if you look at her, she’ll make you change gods and wear crochet pants’ backlash,” she says. “But nobody looks at the things that those people have given to me.”

What have they given you?

“Just so much musical freedom. Common is the most humble person I ever met. Kind and generous. He reinforced that in me. Andre is very creative and artistic. All of that that you see of him, that’s all him. That’s how he is, and that gave me a creative push, too.”

Although Badu is fairly cryptic when discussing her old beaus, she allows this brief, whispered indulgence.

“With Andre, we were both very young, so we didn’t know what we wanted or anything. We just knew we were in love, and we didn’t care who saw us. With Common, it was a little bit more mature.”

Whoa, lots going on there.

But why all the stories and info about these folks?? One reason… We just picked up an EP with the same theme as this post/feature from eargoggles’ staple Turntable Lab.

Here’s the write-up:

Feelgood summertime remixes from Plug Label head Kero One. His remix of Common’s “The Light(1)” is super-satisfying like Pacificos by the pool. Warm melodic guitar loops and crisp drums give it substance, play it at your next outdoor gig and feel the warm vibes fill the air. Kero’s remix of Erykah Badu’s “On And On(2)” keeps a similar pace as the original, but adds that LA cosmic soul flourishes and swagger. On the flip, he adds some fatback drums and 70s synths to Outkast’s “Roses(3),” and makes it into a song that both the ladies and beatheads can get down to. Three for three is rare, but Kero comes through. Also includes instrumental versions of “The Light” and “Roses.”
Order the EP here
A must have for anyone (mildly) interested in this trio. It’s only $8, but it’s good.
**Bonus**

At Bonnaroo this year My Morning Jacket made an attempt at the world’s wettest wedding cover band with a monsoon-y marathon session that stretched out to 4AM, along the way involving Kirk Hammett of Napster Metallica fame on “One Big Holiday,” covers of Kool & the Gang and James Brown, and lots of soaked clothes and goosebumps. One of the most memorable moment came when the crowd started hearing the opening chords to what sounded like maybe some B-side slinky soul thingy and thinking “shit if this doesn’t sound like ‘Tyrone’ by Erykah Badu.” And then it being “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu.

Well people in Dallas last month probably had a similar sensation, when during MMJ’s encore at the Palladium Ballroom they heard the same chords and must’ve thought “shit if that doesn’t sound like Erykah Badu.” Only this time it was also shit if that doesn’t look like Erykah Badu.

The visual’s not great, but the voice, fro, and attitude is all Badu. Enjoy!

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Responses

  1. That’s soo true, her music does have a whole lot of soul in it. That’s why I like The Hotel Cafe tour. All of the artists on there have such soulful music, and none of that booty shaking kind of stuff. Just check them out, if you like them, you can get the ringtone on your phone for free.


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