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*Erykah Badu was born on this date in 1971. She is a Black singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress.
Born Erica Abi Wright in Dallas, Texas, her mother raised her, her brother Evin, and her sister Nayrok after separating from their father, William Wright Jr. The maternal and paternal grandmothers often helped look after them. Badu had her first taste of show business at the age of four, singing and dancing at the Dallas Theater Center and The Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters under the guidance of her godmother, Gwen Hargrove, and uncle TBAAL founder Curtis King. By 14, Badu was freestyling for a local radio station alongside Roy Hargrove and others.
In her youth, she had changed the spelling of her first name from Erica to Erykah, as she believed her original name was a "slave name." The term "Kah" signifies the inner self. She adopted the surname "Badu" because it is her favorite jazz scat sound, also among the Akan people in Ghana. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Badu studied theater at Grambling State University. She left before graduating to concentrate on music full-time and took several jobs to support herself. She taught drama and dance to children at the South Dallas Cultural Center. Working and touring with her cousin, Robert "Free" Bradford, she recorded a 19-song demo, Country Cousins, which set Badu up to record a duet with D'Angelo, "Your Precious Love", and eventually signed her to a record deal with Universal Records.
Her first album, Baduizm, was released in February 1997, with three singles: "On & On," "Next Lifetime," and "Otherside of the Game." The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album triple Platinum. Her first live album, Live, was released in November 1997 and certified double Platinum. In 1995, Badu became involved with rapper André 3000 of OutKast, with whom she had her first child, a son named Seven Sirius Benjamin, on November 18, 1997. Their relationship ended in 1999. Her second studio album, Mama's Gun, was released in 2000. Badu's third album, Worldwide Underground, was released in 2003. On July 5, 2004, Badu gave birth to a daughter, Puma Sabti Curry; Puma's father is a Texas-based rapper The D.O.C. Badu's fourth album, New Amerykah Part One, was released in 2008. New Amerykah Part Two was released in 2010 and fared critically and commercially well. On February 1, 2009, Badu gave birth to her third child, Mars Merkaba Thedford, with her boyfriend of five years, rapper Jay Electronica.
Influenced by R&B, 1970s soul, and 1980s hip hop, Badu has been called the queen of neo-soul. Her voice has been compared to jazz singer Billie Holiday. Early in her career, Badu was recognizable for her eccentric style, often wearing very large and colorful headwraps. She was a core member of the Soulquarians. As an actress, she has played several supporting roles in movies. Badu became a vegan in 2006: "Vegan food is soul food in its truest form. Soul food means to feed the soul. And to me, your soul is your intent. If your intent is pure, you are pure." Badu splits her time between her hometown and Fort Greene, New York.
On April 2, 2010, Badu was charged with disorderly conduct for appearing nude in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, while filming the social-political performance art, a self-directed music video for "Window Seat." On August 13, she paid the $500 ticket and began six months of probation. In February 2012, Badu's concert was canceled in Malaysia because it was found that she had applied a temporary tattoo of the word Allah.
In a January 2018 interview with Vulture, Badu was asked about accusations of antisemitism based on a 2008 Haaretz article quoting her thoughts about Louis Farrakhan. She denied being antisemitic but said, "I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler." After being asked to clarify her comments, Badu praised Hitler's paintings. She also defended Bill Cosby, saying, "I love Bill Cosby, and I love what he's done for the world. But why would I be angry with him if he's sick?" In a January 2019 concert, Badu elicited boos from fans after giving support to musician R. Kelly. R. Kelly has been accused of sexual abuse and running a "sex cult" with underage girls.