Before Erykah Badu Plays Sound Select, She Explains Her Dallas Love: "It's the Birds"
Badu at the Dallas Observer Music Awards ceremony in 2011.
This week, Red Bull launches its Sound Select series in five new cities, including Dallas. And it's starting strong: Tonight at Prophet Bar, the energy drink/lifestyle brand has curated a local lineup that includes Erykah Badu with the Cannabanoids, Larry Gee and Dustin Cavazos.
Admission to the now at-capacity show was free, facilitated by a social networking strategy in which fans gained tickets by posting and sharing moments they've contributed to the local music scene. (Disclosure: I'll be painting really elaborate things on people's nails there.)
The queen of that scene, Erykah Badu, sat down with us before her headlining set to discuss the city's place in her heart, attending Booker T. and the creative inspiration she draws from Texas songbirds.
Are you a fan of your fellow Red Bull Sound Select artists, Larry Gee and Dustin Cavazos? I can't say that I am. I've only heard little pieces so far. I can tell you what I am looking forward to is watching them perform. Recording is perfecting a moment, you can feel that and actually say what you want to say. Performance is creating a moment. In that creative space is where I connect with other artists.
You've done a few Red Bull events in the past. How would you describe your relationship with the brand? Red Bull -- I mean, what we have tried to accomplish for the last five years is to create a neutral platform for artists to interact, hone their gifts, communicate together, signed and unsigned. I'm just pleased to be a part of that kind of organization that actually takes the time to know the people, and the necessity for those kind of things. Iron sharpens iron. Artists who commune together generally grow together in some kind of way, which in turn strengthens the community. Through our art, words and frequency of the music, we begin to change things. And when we begin to organize as artists, we begin to change politics. This is probably the beginning of some really incredible friendships, some really great activism, and some great work.
What was your introductory experience into the Dallas arts and culture scene as a child? I grew up in South Dallas, the part of Dallas that is now dilapidated. Our green grass was on its way to brown when I was a kid and we didn't really have a lot of choices, so we were blessed to have a community center called Martin Luther King Recreation Center, where they had summer programs.
Because of these summer camps and programs, as kids, we were able to travel all over the world without ever leaving the gymnasium. People would volunteer their time, talk to us, read to us, teach us songs in different languages, African dance, ballet, Mozerka -- Russian tap dance. These are things we probably would have never seen had it not been for this summer camp. That's where I first had a chance to express my art and work it out, and become comfortable about it. I'm grateful for that.
How did growing up here shape and inspire your artistic vision? Growing up with one of my best friends, Roy Hargrove, who is a jazz musician -- a trumpet player -- we went to the same school. We were best friends in high school. Artists who have mastered their skill at an early age are also very profound minds. There's something about their minds that work a little differently from being morally correct, so it's amazing to grow up in a high school with all of these different minds.
When I was maybe a freshman in high school, one of the students, Edie Brickell of The New Bohemians, who is actually married to Paul Simon right now, returned to the school to perform on the stage. I actually saw the concert, and she gave me the idea that it doesn't have to be something that you're afraid to do. It made me focus on not being afraid.
Where do you hope to see the Dallas music scene evolve to in the next decade? I like the Dallas music scene. I can't really predict, I don't like to do that. But where we are right now is who we are, you know? Hip-hop and music is the people, and what we're feeling and what we think. As long as we're being honest in our expression, we are doing our part for the evolution of the social world.
To be honest, it's what will create new ideas and new thoughts. I think new ideas and new thoughts are inevitable. These platforms make it even better, even easier for us to share with one another the things that we've learned and experienced.
You are often referred to as "the queen of Dallas." Is that a surreal experience for you? Hmm, not yet. Not yet. It's all real. I feel each person's gratitude, or criticism, or comforting and I take all of those things in.
Our mothers are here, our grandmothers are here in some parts of Texas. I don't know, it's the birds for me. I stay here because of the birds. Their song has influenced my song, my rhythm. The amount of oxygen they breathe gives them the amount of breath for song. It has been embedded in my DNA since I was born. I feel good here, I feel like I'm an improvement on a design, generationally. And my mother was an improvement on her mom's design. This is where we have grown, and ate, and lived, and birthed babies. This part of the world gives me energy. So I live just right where I want to be.
Any big plans for your set on Friday night? Sure! I don't know what it is yet. We usually just take cues from the audience's energy. We can have a set list or songs prepared, but where that set goes is totally up to everyone in the room. I'm always anxious to see what happens. I mean, I'm home. I feel the most the most comfortable and the most love here. I feel good about it, no complaints about that. I just want to be able get on that stage and perform because that's my therapy, and I'm happy it is for anyone else as well.
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