ERYKAH BADU / “Erykah Badu Live & Remixes Mixtape”
HIP HOP — it’s bigger than religion HIP HOP — it’s bigger than my niggah HIP HOP — it’s bigger than the government This One Is the HealerErykah brings it, whatever you think the ‘it’ is that is necessary to get to the heads, make them not only nod but think, and re-think, and do. Change the paradigm. The new way is off the chain (of the old way). This is a mixtape that is composed of tracks that are not commercially available but instead are floating throughout the atmosphere via the internet. What we have here is alternative communication. Unmediated by the dominant authority forces. This is what it sounds like when our sounds are not for sale, or at least what some of our free sounds sound like. Dig? At 37, Ms. Badu has unleashed a revolution in hip hop production. I am interested in her music as more than music. This is some shazaam, abracadabra, open sesame shit. Once it is clear what she has done, ain’t no putting that bad boy back in the bottle. Pop the top and we don’t stop. Kalamu, what in the funk are you talking about? It’s just music. No, it’s not just music. Music is the vehicle but really it’s about seizing the means of production and distribution. Plus, it’s also about subverting the dominance of business in mediating culture. And, finally, it’s about involving ourselves not on in the business of culture but also viewing ourselves as creators rather than objects or mere consumers of culture. So, while the mixtape is running consider the following: A.) SOUND Makes PROFOUND Sense Erykah understands that sound production (i.e. making music) has two main functions: 1. Recording and 2. Performance. One is experience in the moment. Two is reflection on a pre-existing moment. Or, as Ms. Badu says: recording is an attempt to perfect a moment. Performance is a creation of and in the moment. Recording and performance are two different disciplines. Many who are good at one or not necessarily good at the other. Recording is part of the aesthetic of composing, that is thinking through and defining/designing a moment usually with a process of refining the moment, whereas performance is creating the moment on the spot. Think of recording as thinking and performing as feeling, except not one to the exclusion of the other but rather one leading the other. Since we humans are capable of both, we ought to use all our capacities even as we may choose at any given moment to favor one or the other approach. Erykah says she is primarily a performance artist, rather than a recording artist. If that is the case, we would expect her live performance to be stronger than her recordings. And that is generally the case. Listen to the first part of the mixtape which features Erykah full out blowing. Rearing back on her hind legs and ripping off long screams into the nightscape, a she-wolf melodiously baying at the moon. Like how she blows on the fourth track, “Other Side Of The Game.” Sounds like she’s going to hurt something, or somebody, or fly apart, nuclear fission. In the process of performing, tearing apart the component parts and expressing ‘whatever’ in that particular process. (The fusion process is analogous to remixing, sampling and mashing. See, this is beyond some simple industrial, analog sonic production, which is often simply a matter of recording what is created in a given moment. Hip hop is taking pre-existing elements and fusing them to create a new element. (Erykah is the first artist to push the general populace to get to fusion using digital technology.) So, for Erykah, performance is fission and recording/remixing is fusion. B.) CONTROL FREQ I dig it to the deepest, like coming out on the other side of the world by burrowing through earth’s core instead of flying around the surface. Sending down and dirty probes and then catching the reply on the other side. Somebody in China or Australia or Britain or South Africa sending back a remix. That’s how deep. When the new joint dropped, I thought cool but was not hot on it. Little did I know, the new joint was a starting point not the end result. Erykah said open this bad boy up—one album, yall all feed off this. She made her “Honey” vocal tracks available to the world for folk to work with and get back to her. Even set up a contest open to any USA citizen. Not some special people whose work she liked but any old any who out there with an internet connection could get to the straight up vocal track and push their own flavor. The secret ingredient was giving everybody some and seeing what happened. So, on the end part of the mixtape we have four different “Honey” remixes plus a brief a capella vocal interlude. The Seiji Remix with its filthy sub-woofer spacy, broken beat sounds is by far the most original take. Beats so broke they stutter rather than flow. That said, the JBlow RMX is pure funk with horns horn-like keys and backbeat bad enough to break your mama’s back. The live version heads in the opposite direction by slowing the song down to molasses movement, with Erykah hotting it up with a melodious moan like as if our ears were pancakes and her voice was maple syrup. And the DJ Day is like a spring outing, skating in the park, temperature is 72-degrees, sun is shinning, birds chirping, a picnic basket of wholesome munchies, your favorite chilled libation, the whole nine. What it is, is Erykah is controlling the shit by letting it go, by giving basic tracks away, she is garnering truckloads of remixes, boxcars of attention, got producers worldwide working on her music and considering the result ‘their/our’ music. This raises the notion of ‘collective’ to a truly cosmic level. So the greater control is achieved by letting go. Wow. Movements are made of people investing in and contributing to the development of whatever is required to achieve a stated goal—in this case it’s self-expression. Hip Hop is about heads expressing themselves as an integral aspect of creating a better life. We are now in an era when visuals, i.e. image/iconography, is the most effective vehicle for the dissemination of any idea or concept. Again, Erykah initially with her headwraps, but more recently with her hair and artwork is building on a form of expression that reached a high point in the visuals built around the Obama campaign. The graphics accompanying this writeup were generated by Emek, an artist who was impressed with Erykah and add his talent to the mix. This is significant on a number of fronts. Erykah’s image as a black woman in the entertainment arena is a direct confrontation with what is generally pushed. From the physical presentation, particularly ‘hair,’ to the pressure to manufacture booty-shaking hits, which is exactly what Erykah is not doing. If you judge by record sales, Erykah is small fry, but if you look at the impact on the industry and the general public, Erykah’s impact is significant. If nothing else, she is an example of a black woman operating on her own terms independent of system direction. C.) ANALOG GIRL IN THE DIGITAL WORLD Erykah’s latest album, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), was developed on an Apple laptop computer using Garage Band software initially and then following up with Pro Tools. A detailed discussion of the recording techniques and equipment is presented online. Go here if you are interested.
Assisted by mixer/producer Mike “Chav” Chavarria (J Dilla, Eminem, Snoop Dog), Badu recorded vocals and basic tracks at Luminous Sound Recording in Dallas. But the bulk of New Amerykah is based on the producers' raw 2-tracks, which were e-mailed to Badu, dumped into GarageBand, then embellished by her and Chav at Electric Lady (in Pro Tools). Adding live bass, guitar, flutes, percussion and keyboards, plus a wealth of freaky effects and plug-ins, the pair produced a surreal magnum opus of hip-hop. The first single, “Honey,” is a poor indicator of the depths and heights scaled on New Amerykah. The album's fluid bass rhythms (courtesy of Steve “Thundercat” Bruner) recall the low-down subterfuge of D'Angelo's masterpiece, Voodoo; Badu's layered vocal harmonies (recorded to a Studer A820 ½-inch, using RMG tape) are at times frighteningly bizarre; the music is diverse and exploratory; altogether, the overwhelming underground nature of the record recalls a mad mash of Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, Sly and the Family Stone's Fresh and Quasimoto's The Further Adventures of Lord Quas. Badu doesn't mince words regarding New Amerykah's intended message.
“It's a play on my name, and it's very different and new for me,” she explains, settling into a large purple couch. “In 1997, a 25-year-old Erykah Badu came out as an artist, pregnant, a mother-to-be. We used to bring cassettes home as our listening from the studio. No one had a cell phone, only a couple people with these great big contraptions. The Internet was not our form of communication; we still had the library. We were creating from sand and scrap. So quickly it's turned into this technological society. I can send the album to millions of fans from Antarctica to Mexico City with one push of the button. The way our children think and the things they see? It's new, and it's happened so quick. And I am in the middle of that. Me on the platform with a microphone — that is how I envision New Amerykah.”Erykah is also profiled on Apple’s website as an example of someone who is using Apple computers and software. It is easy to overlook the significance of a black woman taking technical control of her own music production, plus directing the public iconography of her visual image, plus directing her videos (which, quiet as it kept, is a strong suit—Erykah’s award-winning, self-directed video for “Honey” is stronger than the music track. Don’t sleep on this. What Erykah is doing will have far greater impact than her simply becoming a personally wealthy entertainment diva. A number of black female vocalists are making much more money than Erykah but none of them are having a worldwide impact in the sphere of production and distribution comparable to Erykah. 4. A REAL THANG: A REAL ALTERNATIVE The last note I’m going to hit for right now is the public perception of Erykah’s personal life. We joke about how she gets inside the heads of her lovers but some of us take strong issue with Erykah’s chosen lifestyle, especially her decision to have children out of wedlock. When she was criticized on a popular web forum, Erykah responded with a full out roar. Below is her statement as posted July 12, 2008 on the Necole Bitchie website:
Earlier this week, rumors were swirling that Erykah Badu was pregnant with her third child, this time with her protege hip hop artist Jay Electronica. She was criticized by blog sites, message board members and the likes for having what would be a third child out of wedlock (first two by Andre 3000 and the D.O.C). She was so insulted by all the negative comments surrounding her rumored pregnancy that she wrote a post on the OkayPlayer messageboards in full Badu style defending her choice of men, her children and her choice to have kids out of wedlock. She starts the post off with “I have never been so disgusted in my life” and later follows up with the questions “What is Marriage? Who Is The Judge? i am an excellent mother and resent all of the negative comments and insults on my character. I PUT MUCH TIME AND THOUGHT INTO HAVING AND RAISING MY CHILDREN. IVE HAD THE HONORS OF HAVING 2 HOME BIRTHS AND 2 WONDERFUL PARTNERS BY MY SIDE”, and continues later with “F*CK OFF… WHO NEEDS YOU ….CERTAINLY NOT ME … KICK ROCKS … CALL TYRONE … PACK LIGHT …. BITE ME” . She then ends her rant with “and if this post is not clear, kiss my placenta.” I love it! Go Erykah!!! Read The Full Post “Pregnant With Insults” Below (it’s long)
HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT THE QUEENDOM …AND MY CHILDREN AND MY INTELLIGENCE. ive never been so disgusted in all of my life . there is no other place i used to enjoy more . i post no where else . you guys have taken an all time low , tho. I’LL STATE MY PEACE i am a great mother and care giver to my 2 children and to this world . my children are 2 of the kindest and happiest people i have met. I home schooled them and taught them the ways of good to the best of my ability. i am their doctor and their nurse . and even sometimes their mother and their father. i am an excellent mother and resent all of the negative comments and insults on my character. I PUT MUCH TIME AND THOUGHT INTO HAVING AND RAISING MY CHILDREN. IVE HAD THE HONORS OF HAVING 2 HOME BIRTHS AND 2 WONDERFUL PARTNERS BY MY SIDE. every relationship i have been in was because i loved the person DEARLY and was dedicated to us “exclusively” FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. the fathers of my children are my brothers and friends . we have a great deal of respect for one another and always will. WE LOVE OUR CHILDREN TO NO END. we took our own “vows” and CONTINUE TO UPHOLD THEM. AND THAT IS WHAT THAT IS . question? WHAT IS MARRIAGE ? WHO IS THE JUDGE? WE ONLY UNDERSTAND THE EXAMPLES WE ARE GIVEN ( well sort of) WOULD IT “LOOK BETTER ” TO MARRY AND DIVIORCE AND MARRY AGAIN ? WOULD THAT BE MORALLY CORRECT ? WHATS THE DIFFERENCE ? the government’s involvement i guess. IDEALLY , IT WOULD BE EXCELLENT TO FIND THE MAN OR WOMAN WHO FULFILLS YOUR SPIRIT AND STAY FOR EVER AND EVER ( thru sickness and health till death do us part ) AND HAVE HEALTHY STRONG CHILDREN AS A RESULT OF A HEALTHY AND STRONG UNION. (this CAN happen … we need much training , however.) OR IS IT REALLY “GOOD” TO STAY IN A RELATIONSHIP WHERE BOTH PARTIES ARE UNFULFILLED , LONGING FOR RELIEF , BRINGING one another down as a result of improper training , creating BAD ENERGY AND EXPERIENCES FOR THE CHILD TO REPEAT ? (not to mention breeding deceit and anger and resentment ) SEEMS TO CREATE FEARFUL CHILDREN WHO TURN INTO FEARFUL ADULTS . HOW MANY OF YOU GREW UP IN 2 PARENT HOMES THAT WERE MISERABLE AS FUCK ? OR 2 PARENT HOMES THAT WERE NOT PERFECT BUT WORKED? HOW MANY GREW UP IN ONE PARENT HOMES WHERE THE MOTHER WORKED HARD TO MAKE SURE YOU WERE CARED FOR BUT SHE WASNT QUITE HAPPY? HOW ABOUT A HOME WHERE THE FATHER WAS THE MAIN CARE GIVER AND DID THE BEST HE COULD -LACKING NURTURE? HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE A SIBLING THAT HAS A DIFFERENT FATHER OR MOTHER? DOES HE OR SHE MEAN LESS TO YOU? HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE MORE THAN 1 MOTHER OR FATHER OF YOUR OWN CHILDren ? HOW MANY OF YOU HAD /OR / ARE PARENTS RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO MAKE GOOD DECISIONS FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN ,THAT DONT QUITE FIT ANY OF THESE DESCRIPTIONS? HOW MANY OF YOU STAY IN UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS FOR FEAR OF GOING TO HELL? HOW MANY HOS OUT THERE … THAT HAVE KIDS TO GET A PAYDAY? HOW MANY PEOPLE GETTING THEY ASS KICKED AND ARE FORCED TO SUBMIT CAUSE YO MAMA GOT HER ASS KICKED? THEN WHAT is CORRECT?
how about this: I PRAY WITH MY CHILDREN I FEED THEM GOOD FOOD THEY RESPECT PEOPLES DIFFERENCES THEY TRAVEL THE WORLD WITH ME THE KNOW WHO THEY ARE THEY ADORE THEIR FATHERS AND ARE LOVED BY 2 PARENTS OR MORE - OR TWO OR MORE SETS OF LOVING GRANDPARENTS THEY CRY THEY GET HURT THEY GET SICK THEY HEAL THEY ARE real THEY ARE NOT AN IDEA or a TOPIC AND NEITHER AM I . I AM ALIVE . I AM BEAUTIFUL WOMAN. I AM A GOOD WOMAM. I AM GROWING I AM COMPLETE WITH OR WITHOUT A PARTNER AND WILL ALWAYS BE AND I HAVE DREAMS OF A FAMILY STRUCTURE ALL OF MY DREAMS DO NOT COME TRUE AND DESPITE ALL OF THE PAIN IN MY LIFE … IN MY MOTHERS LIFE … IN MY GRANDMOTHERS LIFE WE HAVE ALWAYS ENDURED AND THERE IS SO MUCH JOY TO BE EXPERIENCED. I NEVER HAD A FATHER AND I DONT KNOW WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE - BUT MY CHILDREN DO , AND THEY LOVE THEIR ‘PARENTS’ . WE ARE THEIR CHAMPIONS . live how you want . follow which ever pattern YOU like . MY CHILDREN WILL BE LEADERS and they will not ever be slaves to this society’s failing idea of morality. THEY OWN THEIR MINDS AND THEIR DREAMS. BIRTH CONTROL lol … could have 10 babies instead of 2 . I LOVE CHILDREN AND I WILL HAVE AS MANY AS GOD WILL GIVE ME . I AM VERY HEALTHY AND RESPONSIBLE AND SO ARE ALL OF MY PARTNERS I CHOSE THEM WISELY AND SOBERLY . ALL GOOD BROTHERS . your opinions lack experience and are not only careless but also very uninformed and immature. nothing is sacred here . and i see why. if i loose you as a fan because i want to continue to have children then F*CK OFF… WHO NEEDS YOU ….CERTAINLY NOT ME … KICK ROCKS … CALL TYRONE … PACK LIGHT …. BITE ME i have defended myself here ON THIS SITE and hurled a few insults .. but only in response to your insults of my music , my clothes , my lyrics , my hair , my being a woman , my spirit, my choices of partners…. these have all been on trial here . and i continued to support the energy of this place . this is to all the okay players / REAL HUMAN BEINGS hiding behind screen names in order to insult one another and who ever else you will. geeeez… i had to say something i am so sad for parents who try , today guys enough is enuf. dont judge to quickly , OKAY PLAYER? i know you are having fun , but what if it were you and your children? my son is 10 . my daughter, 4 . peace ANALOGUE GIRL and if this post is not clear kiss my placenta.
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