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Last Night's Erykah Badu Record Release...

Erykah Badu at Bill's Records. (Hal Samples)
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The crowd was somewhere between antsy and bored in anticipation of Erykah Badu's arrival at Bill's Records last night. Then again, the crowd probably felt a bit out of place--it'd be tough to say for certain that any of the people in the line to meet Erykah Badu last night had actually been to Bill's before. It didn't help that no one was quite sure what time Erykah was supposed to show--some people thought 10 p.m., others assumed midnight, as it was termed a "midnight release party"--and the lazy attempts at hyping up the crowd from DJ Big Texas weren't exactly helping matters.

Still, when Ms. Badu arrived at 12:20 to her crowd of maybe 75 fans or so, she was welcomed to a decent applause, especially after reminding the set that it was her birthday.

Here's how the entrance went down (thanks to Cindy Chaffin for throwing this clip I shot with her camera up on YouTube):

The next hour and fifteen minutes went relatively smoothly as Erykah signed copies of her CD, as well as the swag--New Amerykah lighters, posters, flyers and lanyards-- that her label and management reps were handing out to the crowd. Highlights and a few more photos after the jump.

The crowd waits... (Pete Freedman)
...and the star of the show arrives. (Pete Freedman)

(For way better photos than the ones above, visit Hal Samples' online store/gallery.)

Notes... - Andre Lopez, 23, was first in line to meet Badu, having arrived at Bill's around 8 p.m. He'd already heard New Amerykah, saying it sounded like "if Radiohead went R&B." He also had a vinyl copy of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon tucked under his arm. - Erykah thanked rock poster artist Emek for contributing all the artwork for the album. We have to agree, it's pretty badass. - The clear lack of familiarity with Bill's Records among the patrons last night was evidence by the number of people snagging Bill's business cards and asking him about selling their own creative outputs in the future. - Badu's manager, Paul Levatino, on why Erykah chose to hold this event at Bill's, and not at a Best Buy or other chain, as the label had encouraged her to do (by even going so far as to offer Erykah an outdoor stage to do so): "She said she wanted to help the store out. She said 'I want to do it in South Dallas.'" - Bill Wisener, owner of the store, on the turnout last night: "I thought there would be even more people, but we couldn't fit many more in here, I guess." (He's right, the store was plenty crowded as was, the line for autographs went out the door at one point.) And on Erykah's decision to host the event at his shop: "I've been crying," he said, eyes welling up again. "That's what this means. It's more than you know. There's no way to say what it means. I'm grateful to God. I saw faces that I used to know that came into the old store come here tonight and I'm glad that they know I'm still around." - Erykah's reps told the crowd that the CD they bought was encrypted with technology that would, upon popping the disc into their computers, would allow them to see photos taken of the event last night. - Erykah signed a poster for Bill to hang on his wall, along with the message "Long live the reka stow!" written in silver Sharpie.

Erykah left the store at 1:34 a.m., but not before noticing that someone--Lopez--had left a copy of Dark Side of The Moon on her table and remembering that it belonged to the first person in line.

"Where is he?" she asked, looking around. Then she announced to no one in particular: "Tell him I got it."

OK, then. Done and done. --Pete Freedman

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