Four-time Grammy Award winner Erykah Badu will perform Friday at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater at 7 p.m. with opening act Kem.
An American R&B singer, Badu's work has been labeled neo-soul because she combines soul and hip-hop. Her sound is bass-heavy and often borders on jazz. Many fans enjoy Badu because of her diversity.
“Erykah Badu's music has a really unique sound,” said Olivia Bailey, 19, from Birmingham. “Her music is like this explosion of hip-hop, jazz and soul. Erykah Badu can rap, sing or just plain jam, and that is talent.”
Badu is no newcomer to the music scene, having debuted on the album “Baduizm” in 1997 and produced multiple albums since. She has received Grammy nominations for all of her albums and is known for her ability to send emotional messages through her lyrics.
Much of Badu's musical inspiration comes from her African heritage and belief in the Nation of Islam.
“My favorite Erykah Badu song is ‘In My Lifetime,' because of all the emotion she packs in the lyrics,” said 20-year-old Erin Costello of Dallas, Texas. “My mom actually introduced me to Badu's music, and I've been a fan for over 10 years. Badu puts an enormous amount of effort and authenticity into every song. That's probably why she has won so many Grammy Awards.”
Badu was born as Erica Abi Wright in Dallas in 1971. Immediately drawn to the stage, Badu was singing and dancing alongside her mother at the Dallas Theatre Centre by age 4. By the time she was a teenager, Wright had changed her name to Erykah Badu. “Badu” was her favorite jazz scat sound. In 1993, Badu left college to begin concentrating on music full time.
Her debut album “Badiuzm” hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, went triple platinum, and won a Grammy, as did Badu's single “On & On.” In 1997, Badu had her son, Seven, with rapper André 3000 from Outkast. Their relationship inspired André 3000's hit “Ms. Jackson.”
The album Badu recorded while pregnant, “Live,” reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts and produced the R&B hit “Tyrone.” Badu won her third Grammy for her rap performance on the Roots' breakthrough song “You Got Me.”
“Badu is such a unique, eclectic character, and that's why I am drawn to her,” said Margaret Kennedy of Knoxville, Tenn. “She stands out like a shining light in the world of mainstream commercial pop artists today. To me, Badu symbolizes what authentic music should be, because her work is real and it comes from her heart.”
Badu's collaboration with boyfriend Soulquarian Common resulted in the song “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)” and her fourth Grammy in 2003. Badu had her second child, Puma Sabti Curry, in 2004 with rapper The D.O.C. In 2009, Badu gave birth to her third child, Mars Merkaba Thedford, whose father is Jay Electronica. A self-proclaimed activist, Badu began the charity organization Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development (B.L.I.N.D.) in Dallas where she lives. B.L.I.N.D. helps develop inner-city youth through dance, music and theater.
“Part of the reason I've been a Badu fan for so long is because Badu isn't just an artist, she's an artist with a cause,” Costello said. “Badu stands for what she believes in, and she fights for that no matter what the cost.”
Badu is also an actress, appearing in films such as “Blues Brothers 2000,” “House of D” and “The Cider House Rules.” She was also interviewed extensively for the 2006 documentary “Before the Music Dies” on the evolution of American music.
R&B singer Kem Owens, known professionally as Kem, will open Friday's concert.
“I would describe my music as soulful, smooth, melodically rich, spiritual, and sexy,” he said.
Before he reached success, Kem battled a rough upbringing that included homelessness and addiction in Detroit. where he grew up.
“My work is a reflection of God's blessing on my life,” Kem said. “I'm looking forward to spending time with my fans in Tuscaloosa this Friday.”
He has two albums out, “Love Calls” and “Album II,” with a hit single in “I Can't Stop Loving You.”