Erykah Badu fuses the jazz, R&B an hip-hop influences of a lifetime, and does so not only with her voice, but with many talents: writing, producing, directing, poetry, dance, drama, and visual arts.
Born in 1972 in Dallas, where she continues to make her home base, Erykah performed onstage at age four with her mother, Kolleen Wright, a professional actress, and wrote her first song at seven on an old piano her grandmother bought for her.
In adolescence, she was encouraged in voice, dance and art, all the while absorbing the R&B music of the 60's and 70's, and the emerging hip-hop culture.
At Booker T. Washington High, an arts-oriented magnet school, she had regular spot rapping on a local hip-hop radio show, tagged "Apples." Then, seizing her own self-hood, she renamed herself entirely, changing her name from Erica Wright to Erykah Badu,-"kah" for the 'inner-self' and "ba-du," after the scat singing of the great jazz vocalists.
Badu entered Grambling State University in Louisiana as a theatre studies major, but returned to Dallas to make her way in music, working jobs as a dance and drama teacher and coffee house waitress. Teaming with her cousin, Robert "Free" Bradford, they performed as the hip-hop duo Erykah Free. A chance meeting with a manager while working on a local film led to regular live work, opening for hip- hop's top names. Their 19-song demo attracted major label interest, but an opening spot with D'Angelo put
Badu in touch with D'Angelo's manager and now Motown president, Kedar Massenburg, with whom she ultimately signed a solo recording deal.
While mounting the landmarks and accomplishments of a whirlwind four years, Erykah gave birth to Seven Sirius, her son with OutKast member Dre (Andre Benjamin), at home with Andre, her mother and sisters on the same day that her live album was released.
To her fans, peers and even to numerous of her own artistic idols, Badu is a new icon because her work has proven not merely entertaining, but empowering. When an artist so thoroughly changes the rules that she makes it hard to remember what it was like before she was on the scene, it's safe to say that she can be called "definitive".