Monday, June 30, 2008filed under: erykah badu
Just the facts, ma’am. Last night: Erykah Badu at the Palais des Congrès. Awesome… though I’ve seen the analog girl at least seven times live (the last: Jones Beach 2005 w/Jill Scott and Queen Latifah) and it wasn’t my absolute favorite set. But, very New Amerykah heavy, very funky, very 90 minutes late. Went a lil’ something like this.
The six-man band jammed for ten minutes alone before her entrance, doing solos off of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.” Chesty backup singers Keisha Renée Williams and Eugenia Bess began chanting “hold on, my people” as Erykah emerged from stage left. With her striking poses at the microphone, the band cranked up “Amerykahn Promise” (derived from the old Roy Ayers Music Project tune, “The American Promise”) and funked out until segueing into “The Healer/Hiphop.” She’d brought out two tuning forks – they make vibrations, no? – and clinked them together at the appropriate moment in the song, but the mic didn’t pick up the space/time continuum rift that one might’ve expected to hear. A few songs later, she brought out an African drum under her arm to bang, bringing in the chant/song “My People.”
I could go song by song, but I’ll put the track listing below. Instead, the highlights. For a few tours now (and this one is officially The Vortex Tour), Erykah has been playing a beat machine onstage that’s sort of like a sophisticated Japanese-engineered version of banging on a lunchroom table to produce hiphop boom-bap beats, but it’s also capable of making space-age atmospheric effects. So at one point, she got the electrofunk beat to Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” going, which the band picked up, and performed “Apple Tree” over it. She similarly merged the music to Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” to the end of Worldwide Underground‘s “I Want You,” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum” in-between “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hiphop)” and “A.D. 2000” from Mama’s Gun. Badu turned her back to the audience at one point and gave drummer Raphael Iglehart what I’m sure was a deadly look for missing his cue.
Other little musical borrowings made the night interesting; the sold-out audience was also treated to James Brown’s “The Payback” at the end of the night, somewhere between “Tyrone” and “Bag Lady.” Same with the beat to “Top Billin’” bringing on “On & On.” And the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” appeared as a petite encore with Common’s “The Light,” and thousands of Parisians waved their cellies in the air from side to side with the house lights down. The only notable Baduizm of the night might’ve been her explanation of vortices, how Paris was located nearby a (presumably spiritual) vortex, and that areas near such vortices produce greater creativity. Knowing Badu, she kept it light considering the language barrier. She jumped into the audience (protected by her security) at one point, cavorting with fans real friendly-like. Then she broke out for the next tour stop in London, leaving us with some prerecorded crunk to dance ourselves out. Now, the track listing:
- “Amerykahn Promise”
- “The Healer/Hiphop”
- “My People”
- “On & On”
- “… & On”
- “Apple Tree”
- “I Want You”
- “Otherside of the Game”
- “A.D. 2000”
- “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hiphop)”
- “Bag Lady”
Tuesday, April 8, 2008filed under: ?uestlove, ahmir thompson, edith funker, erykah badu
Spoke to Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson last Thursday via cellphone, and asked him all about Rising Down, the next record from the almighty Roots crew. And but so before we got into that, I made sure to bleed dry all info on the Edith Funker project first. (For the one person out there who’s never seen the trailblazing All in the Family sitcom from the 70s (when sitcoms were sitcoms), the matriarch of the family was named Edith Bunker). I didn’t get much, but here’s what I got:
- The name Edith Funker comes, obviously, from Edith Bunker (like Gnarls Barkley/Charles Barkley), but it was coined by actress Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy and Peggy Lipton. The group was originally named Funk Sway. (As in feng shui.)
- The Roots’ live shows are booked all the way up till November, so an Edith Funker album coming in the fourth quarter is unlikely/ impossible.
- Erykah Badu has been talking to Starbucks about the possibility of a couple of things, one of which might could be releasing an Edith Funker album.
- The band performed just last month at the SXSW festival in Austin, and according to Ahmir, that live show could stand as an album as far as he’s concerned.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008filed under: edith funker, erykah badu
A simple Google search reveals that Edith Funker may possibly drop an album in the fourth quarter of 2008 through a deal with Starbucks (like last year’s Memory Almost Full from Sir Paul McCartney, I imagine). Also, Erykah Badu has been performing the Edith Funker song “Annie” (as in, “Annie/ Don’t wear no panties”) all over the place lately, a song that may end up on Lowdown Loretta Brown, part 3 to her New Amerykah trilogy this year. Here’s the analog girl doin’ “Annie” on VH1’s SoulStage. (And the viewer won’t let me watch from outside the US…) They’ve already supposedly recorded two albums in two weeks!
Friday, March 28, 2008filed under: brooklyn moon café, erykah badu, mark darkfeather
Music journalists sometimes get identified over time with certain subjects (i.e., Raquel Cepeda with Common, or Kevin Powell with 2Pac) and I think if this ever applied to me, then it’s Erykah Badu. I wrote the first published interview with Erykah in The Source the summer before her début smash Baduizm came out; editor-in-chief Adario Strange gave her a break because they’d gone to high school together in Dallas. My first assignment for Rolling Stone was reviewing Baduizm; I was the rare hiphop writer to get put on by RS before Vibe. And I’ve covered her a few times since: a cover story for Russell Simmons’s Oneworld, a concert review for Russell’s long-gone 360hiphop.com. Her latest, New Amerykah Pt. 1 (4th World War), is the first great album of 2008 and I said my piece recently in The Village Voice here. But I’d met Erykah even before that Source jawn introduced her to the world.
Like a lot of next-gen scribblers, I moved to Brooklyn in 1996, my first New York City apartment, to Clinton Hill two streets from where Biggie Smalls grew up. My closest homeboy at the time (late of Morris Brown College in the ATL), Mark Darkfeather, was living blocks away in Fort Greene, in a spacious loft with about four other people. One of the people was a Clark-Atlanta University grad named Shani, sister to an aspiring Dallas singer with a huge Afro named N’Dambi. No sooner had I read about a neo-soul signee to record exec Kedar Massenberg’s new label in Billboard than she walked through the door to borrow a cup of sugar from her buddies Shani and N’Dambi, so to speak.
We were all glad for this Texan transplant to get her shine once her album was done, watching her perform at Mark Darkfeather’s Crash House, at the old Brooklyn Tea Party, and other local spots over homegrown DATs. (Quietly, the Brooklyn Moon café on Fulton Street in 1996 was like the black boho version of the 1980s Danceteria back in the days. If people like Madonna, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, etc. were trolling the Danceteria before “making it,” the same could be said of Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Saul Williams, N’Bushe Wright, Mums, Sarah Jones and assorted hiphop writers turned authors at the Brooklyn Moon. That’s a book and/or documentary right there.) ?uestlove said something once about everybody Erykah met in Philly falling in love with her for 15 minutes, and that was true of us Brooklynites too under the gaze of those green eyes.
And so anyway, yeah, there was plenty of hanging around that Brooklyn loft, puffing doobies and dancing to Marley’s “No More Trouble” and stuff. One day I needed a pick for my Afro and Erykah started improvising “Afro (Freestyle Skit)” (“Pick yo’ Afro, daddy…”) but I asked her about it later on and, no, I wasn’t the inspiration. But she said I could tell people it was. I recounted most of this in Joel McIver’s Erykah Badu: The First Lady of Neo-Soul, but you know, I ain’t tell him everythang. She’ll be in Paris at the Palais des Congrès on June 28.