Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Badu's Soul Food Is Philosophy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Badu's Soul Food Is Philosophy

Article excerpt

Erykah Badu is not your run-of-the-mill soul singer. While her R&B colleagues try to sound like Whitney or Luther or Babyface, Badu sounds as if she's been hanging out with philosophers like Aristotle, Descartes and Pythagoras.

"The man that knows something/ knows that he knows nothing at all," she sings on her new hit single, "On & On." "I have some food in my bag for you," she whispers in "Appletree," "not the food you eat ... but food for thought, since knowledge is infinite."

Badu's philosophical food for thought is being devoured by the masses: "On & On" has shot up the Billboard R&B singles chart and the video is a hit on MTV, VH1, BET and the Box. Not bad for a singer with just one disc to her credit. Part of the charm of "On & On" -- and the rest of "Baduizm" -- lies in its retro-minded sound. Backed by such guest musicians as jazz bassist Ron Carter and hip-hop act the Roots, Badu's lilting voice crosses Billie Holiday with Diana Ross while her sparse, jazzy funk recalls early-'70s R&B. But what sets her apart from D'Angelo, Maxwell and other young `70s-influenced soul acts is the slant of her lyrics: Like the song itself, the 25-year-old singer (whose real last name is Wright) is ambiguous when asked to explain "On & On" and its cryptic chorus, "My cipher keeps movin' like a rolling stone." "I like to leave the interpretation of the lyrics up to the listeners, but I'll say `On & On' is the teaching of everyday life and karma through mathematics," she says. "The song keeps dropping different jewels of information and belief that I've compiled during my life." Badu has spent most of her life pursuing a career in song, dance and acting. She performed at the Dallas Theater Center as a child, studied dance at the Arts Magnet High School and majored in theater at Grambling State University in Louisiana. Her most memorable local performances came as a member of Soul Nation, which is now Soul Rep, the troupe-in-residence at the African American Museum of Art and Culture in Dallas. …

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