I’m not quite sure when I became an avid Erykah Badu fan, it was definitely later than most who were born in the early ’90s like I am. My parents strictly listened to ’80s music when I was growing up and my older siblings were into the more commercial R&B of the time – your Janet Jackson, Brandy, Joe, Usher etc. The deeper soul sounds that pervaded the latter ’90s and early ’00s eluded my family for whatever reason. But once starting my musical journey and discovering the sounds that would eventually make me the dashing man I am today, I began to fall in love with Erykah Badu, particularly her debut album Baduizm. You see as they say the music that you love at 17 is likely to be the music you’ll love for the rest of your life and that’s the case, Baduizm changed my life and made me feel attached to a woman who I didn’t know. For years I’d cross off names of artists I had seen live and bar Michael Jackson (I bought a ticket to his London show at the o2 before he passed) Badu was the only artist left to cross off. So of course when she announced her Erykah Badu vs. Everythang Tour the determination to grab tickets was strong and of course come the close of the was vilified.
I’ve been to many concerts at Hammersmith Appollo but never had I seen a crowd and energy that was similar to the one at Badu’s concert, it was the most eclectic but similarly relatable bunch of individuals I’ve ever seen. A real mesh of woke, insightful, diverse and warm people were present to witness the queen that is Erykah. Both Omar and Harmony Deja delivered stellar soul tracks that prepped the audience for Erykah Badu, as well as the DJ who blasted bangers from the ’90s and ’00s. He even played “Candy” which as you can imagine was followed by the entire Appollo doing the electric slide.
With Erykah’s band now on stage the band teased us with the instrumentalised version of the classic intro “Rim Shot” to which Badu emerged from the darkness standing confidently over her mic. She began her performance with her recent track “Hi” off her mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone where she sounded pitch perfect and dispelled any myths of Erykah losing her alluring vocal ability. She blasted through album hits like “Out My Mind, Just In Time”, “…& On” and “Apple Tree”. Before hitting us with her Grammy-winning track “Love of My Life”, which had all the mothers and aunties in Hammersmith moving like they were in their 20s again. Badu broke out into a speech about her show is a manifestation of the last 20-years which was true. It was amazing seeing her growth as a human through song and with her live performance you can visually see how she had grown and expanded as an artist over the course of 20-years. Similarly, she made a point that Baduizm was made for us ’90s babies by which our parents would raise us on the album and for us to continue the trend which given the reception to her speech, is true.
Credit: Ravi Chandarana
Having watched hundreds of videos of Erykah performing live on YouTube, what you’ll miss unless you see her perform live, is how she conducts her band and backing singers. She’s in complete control of the tempo, the harmony, timings, bass, verses and more; she knows how everything should sound and should be delivered like a true performer should – it almost reminded me of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Tour rehearsals. Coming towards the end of the show Erykah did an impromptu beat on her drum machine that became the bones of her groovy track “I Want You” – this performance really took me by surprise as it’s a personal favourite but one that doesn’t get as much love as it should. She even brought the tempo of the song up by switching “I Want You” to Yarbrough & Peoples “Don’t Stop The Music” which again had the mums, aunties and myself moving. But then she did her classic track from Baduizm, “Next Lifetime”, which had the whole of the Apollo singing in unison to the deep lyrics that Erykah penned some 20 plus-years-ago, her performance of the track was almost spiritual. “Next Lifetime” followed her now cult song, “Window Seat” which too had everyone singing and cuddling their dearest with queen Erykah serenading us with her vocals.
Curtsying and waving at fans it seemed Erykah was done as she vanished into the darkness, with a ring of boos, her hypeman sprinted onto the stage commanding us all to wish her back. Everyone yelled, “Erykah, Erykah, Erykah” in harmony where Ms Badu returned to the stage singing her iconic sing-along track “Tyrone” which had all the ladies crooning as a collective along with the relatable Badu lyrics. Her performance of “Tyrone” saw the return of Omar who with Badu performed their duet of William Devaughn “Be Thankful For What You Got” with Omar’s “Be Thankful” which led to Erykah revealing her love for Omar and how he performed at her 30th birthday party that her boyfriend at the time threw for her. That boyfriend, of course, being Common, who out of nowhere sprinted onto the stage to an uproar of noise by the Hammersmith faithful where he performed a freestyle (off the top of his head) over the “Intro” on his Be album. At this point, I was out of breath and hoarse then Badu brought out another surprise with Talib Kweli coming out and performing “The Blast”, I mean this was any real hip hop fans dream! The former Soulquarian crew joined together to perform Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes” which then led to Common doing the J Dilla produced “The Light” which had everyone waving their hands in the air like a rock concert as Badu sang the chorus. To close the night, Badu performed, what I believe is her best song ever, “Didn’t Cha Know”, I’m a big backside 6’3″ male, and even this performance brought a tear to my eye. The thing about Badu’s live performances they sound exactly as they do on her records but are way more personal and almost as if she’s singing you a story.
— Bespoke Mag (@bespokemag) July 7, 2017
With the show ending, we were lucky enough to attend Badu’s intimate gathering after the show. Here Badu-fanatics had the opportunity to ask Badu a question of their choice with topics ranging from Pride, anxiety, becoming an artist, where Badu’s name came from and her roots as well as love and generally fans asking if they can have a hug from the queen (I mean wouldn’t you too?). The session was deep and we all sat cross-legged and embraced the energy from a human who has so much wisdom, it truly was a moment that’ll live with everyone who was present and capped off what was easily one of the best nights of my young life.