The Red Bull Music Academy recently caught up with Erykah Badu for an in-depth two hour interview chronicling her career in music. During the interview, Badu discussed how her Dallas hometown’s blue scene influenced the music that she makes today. She said that while the blues acts that come through Dallas – as well as the contemporary music of her generation – gave her a deep understanding in music, it was her uncles’ love of funk music that really influenced her present day career.
“I didn’t really start my musical career until the ’90s, but there’s a really heavy blues influence in Dallas where I’m from: Muddy Waters, Johnny Taylor and a lot of blues people came out of Dallas in the early ’70s, ’60s,” she explained. “There was a theater called the Central Forest Theater where a lot of artists would come perform, from the JB’s, Aretha Franklin to John Coltrane. Whoever came through Dallas, that was a central spot for them in Dallas, and I grew up listening to that kind of music. I mean, I grew up listening to everything, from Pink Floyd to Joni Mitchell, Denis Williams, Earth Wind and Fire, so many different genres of [music]. I’m really a child of funk music. My uncles listened to funk music most of the time, and that’s what I grew up listening to…Bootsy Collins, Parliament-Funkadelic, Zapp and Roger, the Meters, of course.”
Erykah also talked about her early recording career and how she came to develop her distinctive singing style. She explained that originally, she set out to be a rapper along with her producer Free, but that she decided to write a vocal track on a whim that eventually become her debut Baduizm‘s “Appletree.” She also added that the second track she recorded as a singer was “On and On,” and that the strength of that track led her to open for Mobb Deep and the Notorious B.I.G. in ’94.
“[I realized I wanted to pursue professional music in] ’94, ’95. I was in a group with my cousin Free. We were called Erykah Free,” she explained. “He would mail me cassette tapes of beats and I would usually rap over them, but just one time I decided to write a song, and it was ‘Appletree’…we decided we might have something because people liked it and thought it was unique and different. I never really considered myself a vocalist. I was a writer more than a vocalist, a lyricist, and I guess that developed along with it. The next song I wrote was ‘On and On,’ and that was with [Jaborn Jamal] in Dallas…I opened for Mobb Deep and Notorious B.I.G. in Dallas, and people liked it.”
Check out the full two hour interview below.