Erykah Badu has become one of those artists whose music has adapted and transcended with the times. Beginning with 1997’s GRAMMY-winning Baduizm to her “Hotline Bling”-inspired But You Caint Use My Phone, Badu has crafted music for generations.
Erykah Abi Wright is now on the cover of FADER’s 103rd issue, the “Producer Issue” (alongside Metro Boomin). In her interview with Vinson Cunningham, Badu opens up on her family and children, her political views, and her somewhat conservative nature. Badu also talks her social media interactions with her near-2 million Twiter followers. Recently, she came under fire for expressing her views on the hemlines on schoolgirls’ uniforms.
She sees our political present as a test of seriousness on more than one front. “We can organize like a motherf*cker when police beat us up,” she says. ‘But can we organize to stop black-on-black crime, or poor-on-poor crime? Because, you know, poor is the new black. You don’t have to be black now.”
Positions like these, some of them surprisingly conservative, have become an increasingly prominent aspect of Badu’s persona, especially online—where, weeks after my visit to Dallas, she sparked a Twitter storm by calling for longer skirts in girls’ school uniforms. That she has taken up the tools of current-day virality to spread, and defend, unpopular stances is a paradox that strangely befits her: art, for Badu, begins with the individual voice, however heterodox.
“I think it’s cool what Beyoncé’s doing,” she says. “Kendrick Lamar is consciously writing and effecting change by showing the other side of what happens in his community. Believe it or not, NWA started out doing that too. ‘Gangsta, Gangsta’ was actually a parody.” On the way to her point, she effortlessly rattles off the first verse of the song:
Here’s a little somethin’ ‘bout a nigga like me
Never should have been let out the penitentiary
Ice Cube, would like to say
That I’m a crazy mothafucka from around the way
Since I was a youth, I smoked weed out
Now I’m the muthafucka that ya read about
Takin’ a life or two, that’s what the hell I do
You don’t like how I’m livin’: well, fuck you
This is a gang, and I’m in it.
“It’s Cube’s way of saying: this is what you’ve created. He’s not a gangster. But I think it felt so good to ‘em. Whatever gets you the most pussy, I guess. Activist pussy or gangsta pussy? Gangsta pussy was a little bit more plentiful.”
The entire interview, which features photos of her children and her Dallas home, can be read now.