R&B Queen Erykah Badu's Egyptian Mystique

Mystical, mysterious Dallas native Erykah Badu was immediately pegged as one of the leading ladies of neo-soul — characterized by intimate songwriting and vintage jazz and R&B grooves — upon her 1997 debut Baduizm, and reached full cosmic fruition with last year's politically charged, simmeringly funky New Amerykah Vol. 1: Fourth World War. With Vol. 2 due this spring, she broke it down for Chatter from her house in South Dallas last week — on her birthday, no less.

Oh, and find out about Badu's student-arts nonprofit BLIND, her affection for My Morning Jacket and TV on the Radio, and why she couldn't stop Twittering even in labor at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks.

Houston Press: Where are you taking New Amerykah, Vol. 2?

Erykah Badu: Well, Vol. 1 would be the left brain — I guess the logical part of me. And part two is the right-brain, emotional part. But same grooves, same machine, just a different expression.

HP: Compared to Vol. 1, what sort of themes are you exploring here?

EB: I would say part one was issues outside of my body. Part two will be more emotions and love and things like that. Part two is called Return of the Ankh, and that's like return to the inside, the origin.

HP: What does the ankh symbolize for you?

EB: In Baduizm, that was the main theme of the album. I'm kind of saying, in two or three parts, that I'm going back to that feel — when there was no...I was uninhibited, I guess. I didn't have a deadline or lifeline, I just did what I felt. That's what I meant by Return of the Ankh.

But the ankh was an ancient Kemetik. I used to think it was a symbol, but I recently found out it's a word. On the walls of the hieroglyphics, and it means life. The top part, which is the circle, represents the womb of life, the two arms represent the seeds, which are the children, and then the long, narrow part represents the male principle. That's like 360 degrees of life, and it was a very important part, or word, in that culture.

HP: Was ancient Egyptian culture a matriarchy?

EB: You could say that, more than today (chuckles). There was balance — men and women were equal. They had equal say — in certain dynasties, of course — and there were queens who ruled, and when the elders would sit down to council, there were men and women both. It was a mutual respect.

HP: What were your ­musical signposts for Vol. 1?

EB: Sonically, I wanted it to sound really hydroponic — kinda '70s feeling. As far as mixing and recording, that is, because of course I record to two-inch tape. I wanted it to have an [Stevie Wonder's] Innervisions and Bootsy Collins kind of sound. Musically, I wanted to push the envelope to create a kind of 3000 '70s feel, if you will. I guess where the past meets the future.


The freshly spruced-up Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is quickly filling out its spring/summer concert calendar. Last week, the Pavilion announced upcoming shows by No Doubt, Paramore and the Sounds (May 31); Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction (June 3); Styx, REO Speedwagon and .38 Special (June 7); Mötley Crüe (August 7) and Depeche Mode (August 30). See www.woodlandscenter.org for ticket info...Looking for something fun, free and local during SXSW? Then don't miss indiehouston.org's day party Friday, March 20, at Eastside artists' alliance Co-Lab Space (613 Allen). Scheduled to perform are Welfare Mothers, Muhammid Ali, Buxton, Future Blondes, News on the March, the Watermarks, Mathletes, Tambersauro, Kristine Mills, Jana Hunter, Buxton and many more.


Top Sellers
Vinal Edge Records
13171 Veterans Memorial Dr., 281-537-2575

1. Wolves in the Throne Room, ­Malevolent Grain picture-disc LP

2. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion LP/CD

3. Beirut, March of the Zapotec LP/CD

4. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago CD

5. Born Liars, Ragged Island LP

6. Asobi Seksu, Hush LP/CD

7. M. Ward, Hold Time LP/CD

8. Mr. Bungle, Disco Volanti LP reissue

9. Mountains, Choral LP/CD

10. Magma, Studio Zund CD box set


Joe's RoadhouseKPFT (90.1 FM), 3-6 p.m.
Selections from Smokin' Joe ­Montes's February 21 playlist

1. Jesse Dayton, "I'm Comin' Home"

2. John Fogerty, "Don't You Wish It Was True"

3. Rolling Stones, "Monkey Man"

4. Dollyrockers, "Shotgun Shells and Wedding Bells"

5. Sunset Heights, "Equality"

6. The Mighty Orq, "Falling Down"

7. Back Door Slam, "Gotta Leave"

8. Link Wray, "Rumble"

9. Linda Ronstadt, "Faithless Love"

10. Alvin Youngblood Hart, "Porch Monkey's Theme"

(lists compiled by Chris Gray)

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray