As one of the defining voices in neo-soul and R&B, Erykah Badu is a respected singer-songwriter and actress. The exceptional musician has captivated audiences for many years courtesy of her unique mix of soul, hip-hop, and funk influences. The “On & On” singer is considered to be one of the most influential music stars of her time, thanks to her introspective lyrics and powerful voice.
In addition to being a great musician, Badu is also a passionate activist. The “Next Lifetime” star uses her platform and music to promote various social and political issues. The singer is also widely known for her philanthropic efforts.
Here’s a breakdown of how Erykah Badu has been driving social and political change through her statements and music.
The Natural Hair Movement
The “Tyrone” singer was rocking natural hair way before it became a popular trend. According to Badu, the decision by Black women to wear natural hair is a political one – regardless of their motivations.
The singer stated, “We are making a political statement when we are wearing an afro or locks,” – when speaking at the 2015 BET Experience. To further emphasize her point, she added, “We’re being who we are, especially in a society that does not encourage that part of our beauty.”
However, the singer clarified that it is better to be authentic to who you are instead of just rocking a certain look. In the interview, she mentioned that she would rather see a man with, “a natural mind and processed head than someone with a processed mind and natural head.”
Badu also foresaw the rise in police brutality and spoke on the need to fight it, long before the worrying trends that have been witnessed in recent years. In her song “Soldier,” the singer touches on issues relating to police corruption, and more. In the track, Badu calls for togetherness when it comes to combating such serious issues in society.
Coined the Phrase “Stay Woke”
Badu, through her 2008 song “Master Teacher” originated the now popular phrase “stay woke.” In the song, where she pictures a world where Black people realize their full potential, she shouts out the words “I stay woke.” While the phrase has been popularized by the Black Lives Matter movement in recent years, loyal fans of the singer always understood that her spiritual/political album “New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War” was a wake-up call to be aware of existing injustices.
While she does not refer to herself as a feminist, Badu has been representing and advocating for women’s issues through her music for many years. Many of her songs address everything from beauty standards to relationships and self-care among others.
For instance, she gives hope to women who struggle with all sorts of baggage in her song “Bag Lady.” For the ultimate breakup tune, “Tyrone” is the go-to song by Badu. She also addresses the need for self-love, individualism, and the effect of character assassination through the controversial “Window Seat” music video.