The coronavirus has led to the cancellation of a number of events both in the United States and throughout the world. One of the first events to get canceled as a result of the pandemic was SXSW, the annual tech, film, and music festival that takes place in Austin, Texas.
Erykah Badu reflected on some of her experiences at SXSW with Variety, and shared how one SXSW experience in particular led her to opening up for D’Angelo. In recounting that experience, Badu also shared how she traveled to New York to get a record deal.
“I auditioned for Bad Boy Records, and auditioned for Puffy [Sean Combs] himself standing on top of his desk with a boombox,” Badu recalled. “And Puffy ended up saying, ‘Well that’s really great, but I think we’d want to put you in artist development.’ So I said, ‘Yeah, OK, thanks.’ Onto the next one. And the next one, and the next one.”
“Nobody really felt what I was doing,” she continued. “I had this 14-song demo at the time that I was calling Erykah Free, which really became Baduizm. So I ended up back home in Dallas.”
From there, Badu recalled how, one day while reading a book at a coffee shop she worked at, D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” came on in the shop’s speakers
“I was blown back. And I started rethinking my whole career,” she said. “And then SXSW came up, and [my cousin] Free and I went and performed, passed out demos. And we gave one to this lady named Tammy. Tammy at some point listened to it, and she came back and said, ‘This you?’ I go, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and she goes, ‘This is pretty good, my name is Tammy Cobb and I represent Mobb Deep.’ Mobb Deep was one of my favorite groups, and Free and I had been listening to them all the way to Austin.”
Badu then recalled how Tammy gave her demo to Kedar Massenburg, who was D’Angelo’s manager at the time.
“Kedar liked us so much that he says, ‘D’Angelo is doing a show at the Caravan of Dreams in Ft. Worth’ – you know, not Austin, but still in Texas – ‘and we want you to open because we like what you’re doing but we want to know if you’re a good performer,'” Badu recounted. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Good performer? Wait ’til he gets a load of this.’ He said cool..’ Then one week later, he calls back and says he’s not going to be able to host us. I said, ‘Bullshit! Yes, we are. I told my mama, I told everyone this is happening, we’re performing.’ And this is the first time I’d ever been assertive like that in my life about anything. I’m used to letting things happen and flowing organically, but I said no ma’am. This is gonna happen. So he said OK, finally.”
After doing the show, Badu met Big Mike, D’Angelo’s former road manager, who went on to be Badu’s road manager that day (and still is).
“I think that all happened because of the energy in Austin surrounding us, along with all of these prophecies that I felt were happening, which were not coincidences. Austin and SXSW was the reason that could happen,” she said. “That’s why that city is a vortex for me. So whenever I go there, I’m always looking for these signs and things, looking for trees that are twisted a different way, or hearing a song on the radio. That’s what Austin means to me, it’s a vortex. And there are many vortices for me on the planet, but that’s my one, and it will always be.”
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