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"Erykah Badu - Queenager era - swipe"




Erykah Badu Is In Her Unapologetic “Queenager” Era

Despite her sagacious aura, the neosoul matriarch fears and knows nothing.


JULY 22, 2023 9:00AM

Erykah Badu doesn’t give a f**k—but also does.

Listening to her speak is spirituality encapsulated, poetry personified. “I don’t wanna have to monitor my s**t to do right by people,” she told an intimate group of fans and press during her Los Angeles meet-and-greet on her Unfollow Me tour. Even after 25 years of her indelible reign, she still gets “tickled and very nervous” before performing, but you’d never know by her brave face.

Funny enough, she believes her best work is still in her. “I feel the way I felt when I was eight doing this. If I can get out the way, all of the chatter, self-doubt and things, I always wanted to be centered enough to bring forth the messages in me.”

Today, that message is her integrity as she nestles into her “Queenager” era. Coming down from the tour high, she reminds fans that it “definitely has to do with cancel culture.” When speaking with VIBE, she explained, “It’s become a Baduizm, pretty much. Whenever someone says something in the comments, they don’t agree, I don’t care, unfollow me, doesn’t matter. So it’s funny, I also say unfollow me because I’m lost too. We all on an individual journey, finding our way. So following me wouldn’t really benefit you because you are on your journey.”

This conversation picks up where that one leaves off, as we get deeper with the icon about her unapologetic nature, her true thoughts on fear, being an eternal muse, and what it means to be a “Queenager.”

VIBE: I feel like with your generation, you guys are so unapologetic—compared to Gen Z or Gen X, whatever the millennials are called these days. What do you have to say to that?

Erykah Badu: The offendacricy, I mean—they just going to be offended, and that’s just the way it is. They just wait to jump out the bushes and catch you doing something that will offend them. And I think that it’s highlighted because it’s social media, but this is just the way people are. And it’s not everybody on social, it’s people who are offended. You have them and then they infect others. Because not only is it a cancel culture, but it’s also a groupthink culture—where you feel safer in numbers. You don’t want to be left out, alienated or alone and especially if you don’t want to be criticized. Or worse, canceled if you don’t agree with the group, even if it’s not right. So it’s controlled by fear pretty much.

That’s what I think about it. I think they’re controlled by fear when they feel that way. And we see them on social media, we see them in the streets, we saw them in 1953. There are going to be people who are offended and they’re going to express that in some kind of way. But unfortunately in this culture of groupthink or a high-minded society, electricity is allowing, or technology is allowing the rumor or the memo to travel quicker. And we see proof of it in things like hashtags that last for a minute, but it’s such a serious subject. And at that moment, if you don’t have the same amount of passion that someone else has about it, then you are against it.

I’m a watcher. I’m an observer. I already know that you not going to be feeling like that in 45 minutes, so I’m not going to even waste my time. The same way I think about the hashtags is the way I see it all. People are finicky and it’s the way it is and it does not move me when it comes to my feelings and thoughts about things. But I have learned when and when not to comment on things because sometimes the hive is just too powerful, even if they’re wrong. They’re just too powerful.

VIBE: Do you feel like you’ve always been that way or that just came more as you got older?

What way?

VIBE: The way you just don’t really care about what is going on, following the trends and such.

I always felt that way. And that’s why I always be the subject of saying something that’s unpopular because I say, ‘that’s not it.’ And everybody get mad because the hive also doesn’t want their anger to be interrupted, it’s uncomfortable. So yeah.

VIBE: Is there anything that you fear?

That I fear?

VIBE: Mm-hmm.

Not a particular thing, but I do have fear when I’m approaching new opportunities. And the reason I don’t consider it fear is because it gives you the same amount of anxiety or energy as excitement. So I just say I’m excited about something. Yeah, excited about what’s going to happen. Fear is a real thing, it is. But I don’t fear a particular thing. It’s just when things come up, my heart rate goes up like any other animal. But no particular thing, I’m not giving nothing that power. To put that in, this is what I fear and it’s in the fear category. It ain’t necessary.

VIBE: How does it feel to still be that sort of prototype to these younger artists like Durand, Summer, Ari?

I think it’s a very natural thing because I have that person in my life too—Chaka Khan. I grew up listening to her. And everyone on that list has their own energetic thing, they are inspired by me and they don’t imitate me. So that’s what makes a difference between my friendship with them and other things. They are inspired to create, that’s what I inspire in them and that’s what they inspire me (to do), to create my own.

VIBE: Some artists feel a certain affinity to different cities when they perform live and they kind of change their show up a little bit. I wonder if where the audience is based influences your set a little differently?

Yes, it does exist—a place that you perform, it does influence it because when the room is very welcoming and stuff like that, you feel freer to do stuff, to just explore and express. And I find that more in the chocolate cities, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Oakland. That’s where I feel that. Yeah, the chocolate cities is like ‘we need each other.’ I came there because I need 20,000 therapists, and they came because they need one. So we work it out together in chocolate cities; it’s church.

VIBE: I think it’s funny because Durand (Bernarr) also mentioned that he performs his sets in a church type of way.

That’s my child. I met him on Twitter, he called himself Eight. The stepson of Erykah Badu, that’s how I met him. That’s my child. We have such good chemistry together. I’m so honored that he hasn’t left me. He still sings with me even though he has his own career in life. That speaks volumes about his integrity and who he is.

VIBE: Agreed. It’s so interesting that you have so many nicknames. There’s Badulla Oblongata, and Fat Belly Bella, and of course Erykah Badu. It’s not a reinvention of yourself; it’s just layers of who you are, right?

Mm-hmm, different faces.

VIBE: The other day, you called yourself a ‘Queenager.’ What does that mean?

I’m a Queenager. I’m really new to this particular time in my life. I’ve never been here before, this is my first time here in this period of my life. So I’m learning how it goes on this plane of existence where you’ve learned a certain amount of things and now you are really responsible for them. Because you don’t have any excuses, you’re being held accountable by the universe even. Because karmically, you see things quicker, you recognize things faster. So it’s just another place I’m in. And every few years, every seven to 10 years, you are kind of like a newer version of yourself, if you are truly evolving. Evolving requires elimination, if you’re truly eliminating things, you’re rising high and high like a hot air balloon. And as you get to a new place, now you’re new, so that’s why I’m in my Queenager.

VIBE: So that’s what you would consider this chapter of your life to be, so to speak.

That’s right. Real, real, real, real, real adult. But still, I don’t know anything.


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