Meet The Real "Ms. Jackson" Erykah Badu's Mother Speaks On Andre 3000 + Stankonia, 15 Years Later
Yup. Tomorrow it will have been 15 years since OutKast‘s landmark album Stankonia popped on over out the blue, right into our DJ sets and CD players (remember CD players?) not to mention our hearts. It’s been an open secret for a good chunk of those 15 years that the Grammy-winning song “Ms. Jackson”--even though it’s officially dedicated “to all the baby’s mama’s…mamas” was actually an open letter of heartfelt apology from Andre 3000 to Erykah Badu‘s mom, expressing his regrets over the alt-rap king and queen’s breakup sometime after the birth of their son Seven Benjamin. Andre has spoken openly about it in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I probably would never come out and tell Erykah’s mom, ‘I’m sorry for what went down.’ But music gives you the chance to say what you want to say. And her mom loved it. She’s like, ‘Where’s my publishing check?'”
Although extremely protective (understandably so) of her children and her private life, Erykah has also confirmed this in interviews, revealing on the Chelsea Lately show during a 2010 appearance:
“It was her [my mother’s] chance at stardom. She got the airbrushed ‘Ms. Jackson’ shirt, the bobble-head doll. It was on her screensaver. She had the ringtone. That was her chance, so I just let it be.”
Now, “Ms. Jackson” is quite obviously the greatest song on an album full of amazing (“Fresh & Clean”–? C’mon, sun) and even prophetic songs (“Bombs Over Baghdad”). Yes, we said it. Hell, it might be the greatest grown-man hip-hop heartbreak ballad ever. Ever-ever? Ever-ever. With that in mind, we decided that in honor of Stankonia‘s 15th Anniversary tomorrow (Happy Halloween, y’all) it was high time that the world met the real Ms. Jackson and learn what she felt about being directly addressed by her daughter’s distinguished baby-daddy on record–not to mention the joys and pains of raising a Badu!
So that’s what we did. Specifically Okayplayer’s VP Ginny Suss AKA gingerlynn got Ms. Badu’s permission to chat with her mother on the phone–and was totally enchanted by the woman who answered. In a phrase: She is for real. Without further ado, please meet Erykah Badu’s mother AKA “Ms. Jackson” AKA Ms. Kolleen Maria Wright (neé Gipson)–although by the end of this interview, we predict that you, like gingerlynn, will be calling her “Queeny.” There’s no way for us to capture in this text interview the warmth and cadence of Ms. Wright’s wonderfully expressive voice–listening to the audio is a little like being on the phone with the spirit of Ruby Dee, or more accuratley the type of strong, beautiful mother-sister Ms. Dee portrayed so many times onscreen. But reading her words will leave you with zero doubts left as to which parent gifted Badu her bewitching hazel-green eyes–and which blessed her with her regal, fearless spirit.
Okayplayer: Okay, first question: can you tell us a little bit about what Erykah was like as a little girl?