India Arie Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Debut Album, Says A Part Of Her Voice Isn't On The Album At All
At the age of 14, I was introduced to a song that, for the first time, had me take a true look at myself. I looked at my hair, I looked at my skin. I took a second look at people, seeing only the best in them. I knew that I was black, and here was a woman that was welcoming that into a world where I was singing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and dancing to N'Sync. She said she loved who I was, as I was. She said she loved my skin and that no one could take that love she had for me away.
That singer was India.Arie.
And this was 20 years ago. A long 20 years ago, when India.Arie's debut album, Acoustic Soul, hit the airwaves and giving us all the life we didn't know we needed. And in an interview with Essence, she admitted she wasn't too thrilled about the anniversary.
"Being consistent with anything for 20 years is a celebration and the success is a celebration, too. The release of 'Acoustic Soul' was the tail-end of a whole tumultuous era in life, but it's still a nice thing to point at as something to celebrate. Fulfillment is not the right word, but it's the best word I can think of right now. I feel this really grounded sense of accomplishment."
In the interview, she also revealed that she hadn't heard her first album in a while until recently, and when she listened, she recognized the power in her voice at such a young age and its ability to effect change in the music industry. Sis was only 25 years old and had been working on the project since 22. How many of us can say we have the same mind frame we did when we were 25?
"When I listen to 'Acoustic Soul', I really hear where I was emotionally and developmentally because there was part of my voice that's not even on that album at all. There's a whole part of me that's not even there but I didn't have it then. I hear a kid."
With Acoustic Soul, India.Arie was positioned to join the ranks of turn-of-the-millennium neo-soul mavens such as the D'Angelos, or the Erykah Badus, or Jill Scotts, and even Alicia Keys of the culture. These artists re-introduced elements of intimacy, spirituality, and organicism absent in "mainstream" radio R&B. These performers, many of whom wrote their own material, all drew from old school soul, and filtered it into the new wave of social consciousness, Black Feminist thought, and New Age spiritualist symbolism.
In fact, in many ways, India unquestionably led this movement--her and her guitar.
Her success led her to a 50-city tour with the one and only, Sade, and ultimately led to seven Grammy nominations. Seven! All of which she didn't win.
"It took me a good three or four years to realize that winning none was a certain type of success too."
Whew, ladies: read that again, and get your entire life, m'kay? She continued:
"Because everybody was talking about me. I sold under a million copies and everyone was talking about me. At the moment it sucked, but in the end, it all worked out for the best."
To celebrate the moment, India.Arie invited us all along to a special Acoustic Soul 'songversation' virtual event via her social media. The "Brown Skin" singer went directly to fans and cemented the moment through conversation and song, which we wouldn't have any other way, and honestly, was the perfect way to commemorate such a refreshingly ground-breaking body of work.
"I knew I was something different for the industry, I knew I looked different, I sounded different and the songs I wanted to sing were different. I thought I was telling people, 'Make way, something different's coming,' but in hindsight, I was telling all of our stories about what it means to affirm yourself because the world will always tell you that you're supposed to be something different."
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They're each equally as precious and necessary to black culture as the other, with eventually back in the day, linking up and having one of the most famous love affairs in 90s Hip-Hop. And recently, their relationship was carefully described as so much more.
Because according to Badu, her and the Outkast rapper are best friends.
In a Rolling Stone interview with Summer Walker, Badu addressed the current state of their relationship:
"He just left Dallas, actually. He came down for my grandma's memorial. He's one of my best friends on the planet. I care for him so very much, about his livelihood, his art, his feelings. And I'm a super big fan of him. I'm assuming he's also a fan of my music. We're really close."
She went on to add that their relationship fits any dynamic or anything that life throws their way.
"We laugh all the time, talk about things. It's brother and sister, it's grandmother and grandson, it's father and daughter. It's so many different things depending on what the situation calls for."
All to which Summer Walker called "beautiful".
Since their initial relationship, Badu and Andre have had a son, Seven, 23, who is famously damn near identical to his dad. They've featured the other in their music, and publicly shouted each other (and their love) out on various platforms. From Andre infamously referencing their breakup in "Ms. Jackson", to Badu joining Outkast on stage and exclaiming, "That's my baby daddy!"
She even wished him a happy birthday on Instagram with the caption:
"Glad you were born, friend.
5/27/1200bc THIS IS SPARTA!!!! Lol HBD 3. ...❤️badu"
Badu continued on about their relationship:
"He's one of the most caring people that I know. [Our son] Seven adopted this same energy from him. They both have this look on their face as if they're saying, 'I hope it works for you.' No matter what it is. They're nonjudgmental people. We respect each other's art. We're snobs when it comes to art and literature, but I never hear him putting people down at all. He gives everything the benefit of the doubt and consideration. He wants it to work out for people."
Their rapport is unmatched and basically the co-parenting goals we all want in our lives, as Andre 3000 has expressed the same sentiments. He once told Vibe:
"Erykah and I are cool friends, man. We talk on the phone. She even asks my advice on relationships. She's like a cool sister more than anything. The first thing people would think about us is, 'Oh, they don't get along.' But there are always feelings when people grow apart. It's something you have to get through. But man, we are cool."
But Badu and Benjamin aren't the only ex-couple who are good friends, couples such as Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz are also part of the scarce group of celebrity exes who are good friends. The two famously share a daughter, Zoe Kravitz, and since their split up in 1993, they've manage to navigate a divorce and find their way to friendship.
Kravitz once told The Times:
"You go through a marriage with somebody, you break up and it's very difficult. But [Lisa and I] put the work in and we took the time so that we could become best friends again. Our families are blended."
We love to see it!
However we choose to maneuver through life, if kids are involved, may we all reach this level of maturity to successfully rebuild friendships with an ex-lover for the healthiness, and betterment, of our lives.
Could you be best friends with an ex?
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Last month, Erykah Badu launched her online marketplace, Badu World Market, and her premium vagina-scented incense sold out in less than 10 minutes, making her a true entrepreneurial pioneer. While Erykah may have secured one helluva bag, the singer says that the release of her viral product was way more than a money move--issa a whole movement.
"First of all, I'm Erykah Badu. Secondly, in this industry, it's a legend that my box changes people. It changes their influences, their religion, their politics and everything else. So, that's why I decided to do it. I feel like everybody deserves it."
While Erykah says that she cannot reveal the full list of ingredients in her sought-after incense, she did share that her essence is the secret sauce:
"For young women like yourself, I want this to serve as an example of how heroic and beautiful we are. My p***y should be enough. We shouldn't have to explain how, why, who and what— it is what it is. You deserve my p***y incense and that is what I'm trying to tell you."
Erykah said that the product, which was made using her burned underwear, is symbolic of the inner power that all women possess:
"It's a victory for us, as women, because those things have been so taboo. Women are taught to be ashamed of our womanhood, our periods, our femininity, our hormones, our PMS, and all those things that are a part of this world. There are all these beautiful young women who Mama's Gun created, and when I say that, I mean I've been talking about these things from the beginning of time. I feel like we finally have a platform to speak how we want, to say what we want, and we don't have to behave or speak a certain way or hide what we feel."
In the interview, Erykah also revealed that her next venture involves putting us on to all her coveted beauty secrets. Along with restocking her premium incense, Erykah also plans to add skincare products to her online marketplace:
"I'm going to introduce some of those beauty secrets and products to you guys very soon. All through the years, people always asked me where I get this or that, and I've always had the idea to introduce these things to people and make them available. Every girl needs to feel good because when you feel good, I think you look good. I think it's all about your smile and your smell."
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All p*ssy is good p*ssy. I said what I said, don't @ me.
Despite the fact that some men hold the mythical belief that vaginas must taste like water and smell like pineapples to be considered magical, Erykah Badu knows that good p*ssy comes in all shapes, sizes, and smells, and each yoni has its own, unique powers. That's exactly why she's decided to burn all of her old underwear and make it into an incense collection.
Yeah. You read that right.
As though Erykah Badu wasn't legendary enough, a recent interview with 10 Magazine revealed that she is taking a page right out of Boomerang's book (and Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop) with her latest product release, which will be available for purchase exclusively on Erykah's online store, Badu World Market on February 20.
In the interview, the 48-year-old mother-of-three, who has been romantically linked to artists like Common and Andre 3000, revealed that "Badu's P*ssy", affectionately known by me as "Bahdusy", was inspired by an urban legend that we all know well. She explained:
"There's an urban legend that my p*ssy changes men. The men that I fall in love with, and fall in love with me, change jobs and lives."
The singer referred to her yoni as her superpower and says that she wants to offer fans the opportunity to get a whiff of her essence, simply because we deserve it. She explained:
"I took lots of pairs of my panties, cut them up into little pieces and burned them. Even the ash is part of it. Yeah, man! The people deserve it!"
Along with her p*ssy flavored incense, Badu's World Market will also offer fans the opportunity to buy apothecary goods and exclusive merch that will help you get your chakras all the way together and mirror Erykah's iconic style. In the feature, Erykah also broke down the ideology behind her eclectic wardrobe:
"When you come out as an artist, you have to make sure that when you show up, they know it's you. Not just from your voice, but aesthetically as well. I think I'm a nonconformist. If [there's] something that I'm told I'm supposed to do, I am very much inspired to go the other direction."
And her new incense line is definitely proof of this fact.
Check out Erykah's full interview here!
Featured image by Bennett Raglin / Getty Images for BET.
If you haven't heard of Ari Lennox before now, you will soon. Like most up-and-coming artists in the digital age, the D.C.-born singer began her music career by uploading songs to YouTube, and for the past seven years, "underrated" is an understatement for this overly slept-on new-age, old-school artist. Ari, who sings songs about self-love, f*ckboys, and good d*ck alike, is a voice we didn't know we needed in the industry, but her time didn't come until after years of playing the underdog. She told NPR:
"I always wanted to solo at the church and they didn't ever give it to me. But eventually they did and I froze. But then I killed it. I just feel like that kind of just followed me all throughout my life. I've always kind of been slept on a bit."
As the first woman to sign to J. Cole's record label, Dreamville, Ari recently released her debut studio album Shea Butter Baby and has been making waves so big that she even made it on to her soul-singing predecessor Erykah Badu's radar. In a recent interview with Bossip, the 28-year-old songstress opened up about the advice that Erykah gave her during their very first encounter, and honestly, all of us can relate. She explained:
"I was leaving the dressing room and she was just right there. I think she was there for me. I don't know. Maybe it just happened to be that way. She was just right there, I said [hi]...I couldn't hear anything! She was like, 'Are you nervous?' I was like, 'Yeah.' And she was like, 'Just sing from your p*ssy.'"
While Erykah's suggestion may seem like odd and unconventional advice, Ari says she felt that in her spirit.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, I will.' I know, this makes so much sense. When you wanna hit that note you gotta dig deep down in there. You gotta squeeze sometimes to hit that got-damn f*cking high note. So she knew. I knew what she was saying."
It's gems like this that kept Ari going when she thought about giving it all up. Last year, after going through a traumatic breakup, Ari wondered if music would "ever make her happy again" and considered quitting the business altogether. In a tweet, she wrote:
"I don't see how I can ever be happy doing music again. I don't want to write and I don't want to listen to [sic] listen to any beats. I don't want to perform. I think I'm literally done. Never thought I could feel that way but I do. Hopefully, god can give me happiness and peace because I feel so far from it. This has nothing to do with music. I'm not mentally ok. I don't know if I will ever be."
Luckily, months later, God gave Ari exactly what she asked for in the form of a new apartment in a new city and a trip to Nigeria that transformed her perspective. The singer told Madame Noire:
"I got super healthy and I found out about loving on myself. I fell in love with New York. I fell in love with Brooklyn, and that just helped me mentally. It's just a beautiful place to heal, I think. I don't know, the trauma eventually lessened over time. Oh, and going to Nigeria [helped]. It's a whole world out there other than like, you know, whatever city you live in. If you ever feel depressed, take your depressed a– out the country, or at least be depressed somewhere else and like, just live, you know what I'm saying? Because it can really help you find appreciation for life and different things."
Now, Ari is singing her truth from her p*ssy every damn day, and it's all thanks to the fact that she trusted the process and didn't give up. Goal-focused, mentally sound, and f*ckboy free, Ari is transitioning into a new version of herself, one that we'll continue to see reflected in her music:
"I kind of don't even want to drink anymore because I want to be able to just not be sick and just always have my voice and sh-t like that. I want to be as fire as India Arie one day or Erykah Badu, or just those real singers that be singing. So it's like now, I don't know, I just want to focus."
If you still aren't convinced that Ari is one of the true leaders of the old-school, new aged R&B; game, you should check out these 8 songs:
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We may know Erykah Badu for her soulful and soothing vocals, but it seems as though she has a few other hidden talents up her sleeve. The Dallas native is a huge advocate for home-birthing, and after delivering all three of her children at home, she became a doula --providing physical, emotional and informative support to over 40 mothers and counting.
You see, not only is Erykah a doula, she also plays music for nursing home patients nearing their final days. Or, as she puts it, she's part of both the "welcoming and ushering committees." Here are a few interesting facts about Erykah Badoula's training as a midwife that you may not have known:
Erykah became a doula by default.
"I became a doula by default. I had Seven naturally, at home, and a couple of years later I was traveling through Europe, and one of my best friends, Afya, who is the wife of stic.man from dead prez, went into labor. I just wanted to be there with her, so I rerouted my flights and came to Brooklyn. She had already been in labor for about 10 hours, and the whole labor ended up lasting 52 hours. No anesthesia, just pure willpower and whatever else the midwife who was there had to offer.
"My main focus at that moment was to bring her some kind of peace and strength and will to push forward, because I know how hard that is. I ended up staying with her for 42 hours and I wasn't sleepy. I naturally knew what to do, and it was then that I figured out that this was something I can do that makes me feel so fulfilled."
She is considering opening her own practice.
"...We don't know where these babies are coming from—their souls, or their spirits of mind, or if they're born wholly as soon as they get here—but whatever it is, I just want the environment to be one of tranquility for the mom and dad and everyone involved. A home birth is about being able to create exactly what you want, because it's such a violent moment inside of the body that you want everything else to be as beautiful as it can be. So I started studying to be a doula and got my certification in 2011 and now I'm in training to become a midwife. I'm almost there and before I know it I'll be able to open my own practice, if that's what I desire."
Erykah is part of the 'ushering committee'.
"...I sit at the bedsides of people who are passing on in hospices or nursing homes, for the people and families who want that kind of thing. When people are going on to the next plateau of whatever this thing is called life, I also want them to breathe easily, even if it's the last one they take here with us. I guess I'm the welcoming committee and ushering committee."
She takes two different approaches to welcoming a life, and helping someone come in terms with death.
"Whereas I want everything to be peaceful during a birth, I take the total opposite approach when I'm helping someone come to terms with leaving this place—I play Richard Pryor records. [laughs] Breathing becomes really easy when you're laughing. It kick starts that feeling of joy, and I keep it going from there and help them remember things that are fun and help them forgive themselves and others. Sometimes their families are not present because they have not come to terms with the fact that they may never see their loved one again. So I make calls for them and let the children know that maybe this is a really good time to come hang out and talk and learn from this soul before they leave; I just know I wouldn't want to be alone and afraid at that time."
Erykah performs in nursing homes.
"Naturally. I just wandered into a nursing home one day after I dropped my daughter off at dance class. I've done this kind of stuff since I was a kid; they usually have a piano in every nursing home, and I always wanted to perform for whoever would listen when I learned something. I grew to understand very early that a lot of these people who are in nursing homes are elderly and don't have a lot of things that give them joy from day to day. But when I would come and play as a young person, they would just be so excited to see me. I would think, 'Wow, this is important work that I'm doing here.' So I just carried that on into adulthood up to now."
That Erykah and her many talents!
Catch more information about Erykah's midwife work over at Pitchfork.
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