Erykah Badu's Birthday
With Dave Chappelle, the Cannabinoids and more
The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Friday, February 26, 2016
By the end of Erykah Badu’s epic 45th birthday extravaganza at The Bomb Factory on Friday night, the Queen of Neo-Soul was surrounded by dozens of people on stage. Members of her family, her closest friends, musical collaborators and well-wishers all came together for a celebration as unique as Badu herself.
“What you’re seeing right here is a beautiful moment,” she told the sold-out, 4,000-plus person crowd. “They’re not gonna put this on TV.”
While Badu may have been alluding to some of the scrutinizing press she’s received over the course of her nearly 20-year career, it certainly was a beautiful moment to take in. But at the same time, it felt like a private moment that the swelling, adoring crowd was lucky to be a part of — especially as Badu shared hugs and kisses with her siblings, children and close friend, Dave Chappelle, who hosted the event.
To say Badu is “Still Boomin'” in 2016 is an understatement. The event title for the sold-out celebration acknowledged that Badu is still a creative force to be reckoned with. But it came up short in grasping the idea that, after nearly two decades as a star in the music industry, Badu still seems on the cusp of reaching her peak. In case you need reminding of her most recent accolades, Badu’s dominated headlines recently for her acclaimed mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone, hosting the Soul Train Awards, her one-human show, and role as a stylist during New York Fashion Week.
In recent years, Badu’s birthday bashes have become an annual tradition in Dallas and, each year, it seems that she has opened up more and more in the public eye, inviting everyone to partake in the celebration and not just putting on a show. Chappelle’s presence gave the night a star-studded feel, but a surprise appearance by Andre 3000 put the night over the top compared to past bashes. Although it would’ve been an amazing opportunity for the two to perform their “Hello” collaboration, Dre was just on hand to celebrate Badu’s special evening.
Three Stacks’ nonperformance may have been the only let down of the night. Before introducing Badu, Chappelle took a few minutes to regale the room with some hilarious yet self-deprecating stand-up. He jokingly introducing himself by saying, “For all the kids who are too young to remember, my name is Dave Chappelle,” which he followed with an anecdote about getting booed on stage in Detroit. In an endearing moment, though, Chappelle introduced Badu by mentioning how much he loves his dear friend, how she makes him want to be a better person and that she is his favorite performer.
Just a few moments afterward, Badu took the stage with the Cannabinoids in her signature top hat, which would later be adorned with a crown by her friends and family, and began a two-hour jam session that worked through her earliest material from before Baduizm to some of her most recent work. Her fans sang along all night. The stage presence and power that Badu possesses with her voice is awe-inspiring at times because, even though she’s joined on stage by a full backing band, it’s hard to remember they’re there. She effortlessly commands the room’s attention.
It’s obvious, though, that Badu feeds off a room’s energy, too. Several times she acknowledged that fact, and toward the end of her performance she asked the audience to put two hands in the air with thumbs pressed against palms so that they could feel and harness the energy they’d been giving her all night. Despite commanding all the attention, it helped that she took time to personally introduce each member of the Cannabinoids, which essentially boils down to a murderers' row of Dallas musicians.
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And then, on a night when she was being celebrated, Badu gave a gift to the city: She gave Dallas’ local talent an opportunity to shine before and after her jam session. Before Badu took the stage, there were opening sets from Zach Witness, -topic and Cameron McCloud, but after Badu left the stage there was another open jam session that gave a slew of local artists the opportunity to perform.
Badu’s been on a tear of late and, while she managed to give that love back to the city, Friday night was still ultimately a celebration of all her work — an event that will be talked about for years to come.