Leading Lady : Erykah Badu

"The light always shows on the outside if you are striving to be good on the inside."

The term neo-soul was coined in the late 1990s to describe a style of music that fused soul with modern hip-hop and R&B. Among the genre's pioneering artists was Erykah Badu, a singer/songwriter with an affinity for freestyle rap and bohemian style whose voice drew comparisons to Billie Holiday. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Badu grew up performing in church, school, and the local community center. She majored in theater at Grambling State University in Louisiana until returning to Dallas to pursue music full-time.

Badu's debut album, Baduizm (1997), won two Grammys and has sold almost three million copies. Two decades, four additional studio albums, and countless accolades later, Badu still performs eight months of the year - something she considers less as part of the job and more as therapy. In an industry motivated by profit, Erykah has managed to sustain a career that continues to evolve without compromising honesty.

When not touring, writing, or directing her own videos, Badu is a mother, Reiki instructor, holistic-health practitioner, and doula. In 2003 she founded Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development (B.L.I.N.D.), a charity organization that transformed the Black Forest Theater in south Dallas into a space that provides community-based programs for inner-city youth. She has created a label, Control FreaQ Records, with a mission to allow artists creative freedom. Because to Badu, creativity is freedom. - Kelly Longhurst


Photo Credit : Amanda Demme for The New Yorker