“On a Monday evening in August of 1996, I went to see The Roots perform at the Knitting Factory, in downtown Manhattan. The band had come from Philadelphia for a three-night stand in support of their “illadelph halflife” album. At one point during the set, I noticed a tall woman with an enormous head wrap standing in the front row of the crowd. Toward the end of the evening, the group’s bassist, Leonard (Hub) Hubbard, gestured for the woman to come onstage. The lead rapper, Tariq (Black Thought) Trotter, announced, “This is a friend of ours from Dallas, Texas. Her name is Erykah Badu.”
Thus begins Sasha Frere-Jones’ valentine to Dallas' own Badu in this week’s New Yorker. Badu, who was born in South Dallas in 1971, recently issued her album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), the first in a string of four records. The Observer spoke with Badu just days before the release, and she described the three-year-long musician’s block that has since given way to this latest gush of politically apt and gut-wrenchingly soulful music.
Frere-Jones doesn’t mention Badu’s creative drought, focusing instead on the glories of New Amerykah, which he calls a “brilliant resurgence of black avant-garde vocal pop, convincing in its doubts and stable in its unmoored ways.” --Naomi Zeveloff
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