Erykah Badu has weighed in on right-wing politicians’ hijacking of “woke” — and according to the singer, elected officials should start saying what they mean.
During an interview with MSNBC‘s Ari Melber, Erykah Badu discussed how “woke” has become misused. The first iterations of the phrase emerged in the early 1900s as a reminder to the Black community to be conscious of social and racial injustices in the world; however, these days it’s become a buzzword for right-wing pundits.
As part of the conversation, Badu and the host discussed how she was one of the first artists to use the phrase in 2008 on her fourth studio album, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), on the track “Master Teacher.” In the song, Badu sings: “Even though you go through struggle and strife/ To keep a healthy life, I stay woke (I stay woke).”
When asked about the process of creating the album, Badu noted that it had “no solutions… it’s just what I’ve observed.” She said that the song was just meant to “state what the problems were,” and added that it was really part of “start[ing] a lot of stuff.”
Several years after dropping New Amerykah, Erykah Badu helped bring the phrase back into the mainstream when she used it in a tweet in support of Russian punk activist band Pussy Riot. “After that, woke took off,” she said.
The host noted that since the album’s release, a bevy of activists and musicians have used the term — including Donald Glover on his 2016 track “Redbone.” However, it has also been used pejoratively by conservatives like Donald Trump and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
With no qualms, Badu told host, “I think they mean Black… yeah… it’s just another way to say ‘thug’ or something else, right?”
When asked how she feels about the term being hijacked, Badu said: “It is what it is. It doesn’t belong to us anymore. Once something goes out in the world it take a life of its own.”
Nonetheless, Badu believes the word will continue to thrive, and she explained what it means to her.
“I can tell you what it means,” she said. “it just means being aware… being in alignment with nature, because if you’re in alignment with that you’re aware of everything that’s going on.” But, she added, that awareness is not limited to the political arena, but also encompasses your personal health, relationships, home, car and sleep.