As the boats sailed along the Detroit River, and dusk turned to night, Erykah Badu glided onto the stage. The songstress took her place in the spotlight at the Chene Park Amphitheater; an idyllic setting which complemented Ms. Badu's brilliant beauty. Appearing like a modern angel, she rocked an electric blue fedora and a dove white kaftan.
"I got my Dee-troit brim on." she said, pronouncing the city as an insider would, and immediately made the evening even more inviting. Although she hails from Texas, spending time off from touring between Dallas and Brooklyn, she seemingly has an affinity towards the Motor City as she has worked with musicians that repped Detroit hard- J Dilla- or have lived here- Jay Electronica.
The performance itself was as mesmerizing as Badu's voice. She is a consummate performer; seductive and humorous, playful yet dramatic, serene and confrontational, seemingly all at once. Her music was comprised of a wide range of styles, stemming from soul and R&B to synth, with hip-hop tendencies sprinkled throughout. Her voice provided a sophisticated accompaniment that fused the unique sounds together.
Erykah grew up listening to 70s soul and 80s hip-hop. Her current musical influences include Minnie Riperton, and listens to "the Emotions, Steely Dan, Anita Baker, and Pink Floyd, specifically The Dark Side of the Moon."
Ms. Badu is personally inspired by Harriet Tubman, recalling a story that illustrates why she is such an inspiration to her, [Harriet Tubman] 'threatened to shoot anyone who tried to return... [to the plantation] she pointed a gun to their head and said, "You go on or die." '
It is no surprise that she was raised within a theatrical environment and majored in theatre and performance. Erykah seems to enjoy being onstage and the art of performing. She is an indelible singer, and is confident enough to have fun with the audience.
Sometimes she slithered down the mike stand as if it were a stripper pole, intermittently joked with the audience, followed by interludes of her moving like a straight ridah. Although most of her performance conjures up Billie Holiday or Sade, she holds the capacity to be edgier than those with whom she is often compared.
Erykah Badu refuses to allow herself to get stuck within one persona. She holds the ability to utilize the many sides of her personality. At once, she can appear so quietly confident that it is disarming, yet at the same time, can seem like she would knock you out in a second, simply with a glance in your direction.
Bringing to mind something heard time after time: Do not look directly into the eyes of Erykah Badu. There are many explanations as to why- definitely not because she is Medusa. It is most likely because you will look into the eyes of an individual who genuinely believes in what she says. A rare quality to possess- it may scare you. If you don't buy into this reasoning, then avert your glance- you might turn to stone.
All images & text ©Nicole Wrona