Baduizm – Erykah Badu (1997)

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“Baduizm” is the debut album from American Singer Songwriter Erykah Badu.

Hailing from Dallas in Texas Badu was part of the Neo Soul movement in the mid 90’s which brought serious R&B back to the forefront with music that fused different elements of black music (R&B, Jazz, Hip Hop and Soul) into a cohesive package.

“Baduizm” sits alongside D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” and Maxwell’s “Urban Hang Suite” as definitive albums of this era.

This for me is as seminal a R&B album as those from the soul greats such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. A bold statement perhaps but albums that have such an impact on the genre such as this deserve to be praised as highly as they can.

The album kicks off with with intro “Rim Shot”. A rim shot is when the drummer hits the centre and outside (the rim) of the drum. The song of course features a reoccurring rim shot as this 01:58 intro sets the chilled out tone for the rest of the album.

Track 2 is “On & On”. It is probably Badu’s most famous song and certainly won her many accolades. The song is not only brilliant in that it’s a catchy tune you can sing along to but it’s also quite deep in it’s meaning. Some of the lyrics are spot on about life and how people move through their time on this earth.

“If we were made in his image then call us by our names
Most intellects do not believe in god but they fear us just the same”

I love this line because whilst not a religious person myself the fact that we still take a moment to respect and just acknowledge the concept of God as something to perhaps not fear but at least take seriously yet a theoretical real life discussion would see me have a very different and negative view.

“The man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all”

This lyric is one I have carried through my life over the last decade. It means something to me and Erykah Badu simply points out that the most intelligent person knows that he or she doesn’t actually know a thing.

“Appletree” is the third track. This song is about being independent and that trying to please others is futile.

I don’t go ’round trying to be what I’m not
I don’t waste my time trying ta get what you got
I work at pleasin’ me cause I can’t please you
And that’s why I do what I do

Whilst simple in it’s concept “Appletree” is a pleasent song which is a postive and bright.

“Otherside Of The Game” is one of the highlights on Baduizm. The dark tone set by the bass sees Badu tell a story about the otherside of a drug dealers life as she tells it from the point of view of this mans partner. She seems to have an understanding of why he does what he does and why the hustle is part of his life but at the same she is cautious about what will happen if he is taken away.

The song is a love song ultimately and how this man is her world. She doesn’t even think she could cope if anything did infact happen to take him away and as the song develops she is more so telling him that he has got to do what he has got to do and she will be there for him.

Vocally Badu is just mesmerizing on this track. It’s as if Minnie Riperton had begun her career 90’s and is now singing about contemporary life. Badu is a masterful singer and this song is utterly compelling.

“Sometimes (Mix #9) “ is a 00:44 second track which acts as a slight interlude as Badu sings over a hip hop style beat.

“Next Lifetime” is track 6. This song is about two characters who are in love with each other. It is implied that they have been intimate and perhaps for some time. Badu wants this man but she is currently in a relationship and will not end that one for him.

The confusing thing about this track lyrically is that it is conflicting. It is morality which is being questioned and her moral stance is that she cannot be with him as she is somebody elses good. The morality though seemed to go out the window when she was having and an affair with this man. There is confusion, confliction and frustration throughout the track.

Now what am I supposed to do
When I want you in my world
How can I want you for myself
When I’m already someones girl?

Badu accepts that she will not be with this man and settles for telling him that in her next lifetime they will surely be together.

See it ain’t nothing wrong with dreaming
Boy don’t get me wrong
‘Cause every time (every time) I see you (every single time)
I know just how strong (every single time)
That my love is for my baby
But emotions just don’t lie
Well I know I’m a lot of woman
But not enough to divide the pie

Leaving the lyrics aside I think this is a gorgeous song and one of my favourite 90’s soul songs of all time.

“Afro” is a song which sounds as though she is simply free styling. The lyrics were dedicated to ?uestlove of the Hip Hop group The Roots. It’s a bit silly but a bit of fun which lightens the mood. The sense that Badu is so comfortable with herself and her life is apparent here.

“Certainly” is Badu again displaying an independent arrogance when it comes to men and people being in her life. The seems to be Badu telling his man that she doesn’t actually need him. She isn’t looking for anything and his presumption that she was is a little annoying to her.

The big jazzy bassline might hurt your speakers a little but it’s still a great track.

There is a bit of darkness to a section of the lyrics  when this man clearly frustrated by her attitude tries to get creative and slips her a “micky” which can only be taken as a date rape drug!

I know youre tryin’ to get creative with my love
And that’s alright but you tried to get a little tricky
Turned my back and then you slipped me a mickey

“4 Leaf Clover” is the ninth track on the set. It is probably the most commercially freindly track on the album and fits in with the mid 90’s pop/R&B scene more comfortably.

Lyrically it tries to please a little too much on the theme of 4 leaf clovers and other superstitions.

Free as a bird, yeah, yeah
To catch me is to catch a leprechaun
Hold on to your rabbit’s foot
I just might be yours forever

“No Love” is again a little more lyrically redundant than the tracks on the early portion of the album. It’s just Badu essentially moaning about this man showing her no love and how he is making her feel. The track is sung over a hip hop beat and flows well early on but at over 5 minutes it soon becomes tiresome.

“Drama” is Badu’s outward looking view on the world. She questions how she and everyone can go on when there are so many problems in the world. She asks us to lift up our hearts to God and to lift up our souls. The song is a tad preachy but Badu’s voice is so engaging and the tune is so atmospheric that you can’t help but be drawn in.

“Sometimes” is track twelve. We heard a portion of the instrumental earlier on but this is a full track as Badu sings about her feelings towards a person that makes her feel so many different and opposite emotions.

This is one of those tracks I love putting on. It’s so chilled out and the production is just wonderful to listen to. The way Badu’s voice seems to just blend into the beat as the song carries on is beautiful to listen to. There isn’t any stretching of the vocal. It’s calm, considered, sweet but to the point.

“Certainly (Flipped It)” is essentially “Certainly” all over again as it’s the exact same lyrics and melody. The instrumental has changed and it’s a hip hop groove with Kool & The Gang’s “Summer Madness” sampled.

“Rim Shot (outro)” is the final track. It’s basically just a extended version of portions of the intro. Lyrically it’s exactly the same and closes out the album. The song doesn’t sound like the finish of anything which I think Badu was probably wanting to get across as this is her debut and just a snapshot of what she wants to do and what she wants to say.

Baduizm is a cohesive and rounded piece of work. It sounds like a complete album and doesn’t have any tracks that you would say do not fit. It is little filler and all killer in my eyes and one of the finest R&B album from the last 30 years.

A wonderful voice, a fascinating lyricist and a exquisite piece of work.

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