When I was a music buyer for a large chain of music stores, I would often receive albums (promos) by new artists early so I could hear the music and hopefully love it enough to make a large purchase or the “perfect purchase” to supply all of my stores. It could be terrible if a title was released and sold out right away. If this happened a chain could lose a lot of business which would ultimately affect the record label and the artist.
I would usually receive early releases and promos from the sales rep of the label or the distribution company that sold the label’s product. Occasionally for BIG releases I would get special presentations directly from top executives from the record label who would sometimes bring the music and the artist to my office to meet me. I always knew the level of importance of a new artist or release based on the person that was bringing or sending the early promo to me.
In late 1996 I received a package from the President of Urban Music for Universal Music. Inside the package was a personal letter from the the President along with a letter from C.E.O. of the record label that was releasing a new artist named “Erykah Badu”.
It also contained a promo copy of her debut album “Baduizm” that was set to be released in 1997.
I received this album very early and with a very powerful letter from the top executives from the label. I knew it was going to be an important release, but I still wondered if the music was good?
After reading the letter that came with the album, I put the CD in the player, closed my door and pressed play. I understood the importance of the release based on who sent it to me and especially since it was so early before the scheduled release date of February 11, 1997. This seemed to call for my full attention, so I immediately stopped what I was doing to give this an uninterrupted listen. I had 2 ways that I loved to preview new music. I would start with headphones in my office and if it was something I liked I would take it to my car, crank up the volume and go for a drive to hear the whole album. If a CD or tape made it to the car, it was usually something that I ultimately fell in love with. Since most customers listened to music in their cars, it had to sound “great” in my car too.
Erykah Badu’s “Baduizm” went into my car’s CD player and that is where it stayed for about 2 months.
I could not get enough of this album. I had to know everything about this brilliant new talent. I spoke directly to Kedar Massenburg who was the the C.E.O. of Kedar Entertainment. This label was also distributed by the hottest distribution company in the business. Universal Distribution was known for their success with urban music.
Since Erykah’s music was so different at the time, Kedar gave it its own NEW sub-genre. He coined the term NEO-SOUL which stands for Progressive Soul. Neo-Soul can include elements of funk, hip hop, jazz fusion, pop, rock, electronic and African music. Erykah Badu is known as the “First Lady of Neo-Soul” and some call her the “Queen of Neo-Soul”. Her album “Baduizm” opened the door for many great neo-soul artists.
I became obsessed with Erykah Badu and it was not long until the label invited me to come to the shoot for her first video.
The video was for the first single “On and On” which was released in January of 1997. I spent the entire day on the set of the video.
I hung out with Erykah and her mother as we watched the taping. In between breaks I would get a chance to speak to Erykah. I got to know her, and she continued to invite me to any and all events, shows or parties that took place near Los Angeles. When her debut single, “On and On” was released it shot straight to #1. This song also propelled her debut album to #1 when released on February 11, 1997. The song “On and On” also won a Grammy award for “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” at the 1998 Grammy Award show. Soon the song was a world-wide hit. “On and On” topped all the prestigious music charts. Music critics loved Erykah Badu. Erykah is a gifted songwriter, singer, rapper, poet and performer. Through the years she has also proven to be a good actor. Erykah’s videos are always creative, thought-provoking, sometimes edgy and always worth the wait.
Erykah Badu has now released 5 successful studio albums and a live album. I recommend adding “Baduizm” to your collection and adding the rest in the order in which they were released. Erykah does not release albums often but when she releases one it becomes an “event” in music.
- Baduizm (1997)
available on CD here from DeepDiscount.com
- Mama’s Gun (2000)
available with a bonus track on CD here from DeepDiscount.com
- Worldwide Underground (2003)
- New Amerykah Part One …4th World War (2008)
available on CD here from DeepDiscount.com
- New Amerykah Part Two…Return of the Ankh (2010)
If you love what you hear from Erykah Badu, you may want to check out some of these other ‘Women in Music”