(Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
When she was told she’d have just four hours to write the lyrics for a song, record her vocals, and perform it that night, Erykah Badu was understandably “petrified." But working on deadline for the Re: Generation Music Project turned out to be a satisfying experience. The documentary, a fascinating look inside the creative process, follows five electronic DJs and producers, each assigned a musical genre, as they remix a piece of music and collaborate in the studio with well-known artists. Mark Ronson, a big Badu fan, says it was “like Christmas and Hanukkah rolled into one” to have her join him on a jazz piece ultimately titled “A la Modeliste” after Zigaboo Modeliste, who plays drums on the song.
“It was a big challenge. I was scared. I wanted to deliver, and I’d never put a time frame on myself before,” says Badu, noting that she normally has at least a few days to reflect on her work. “But that didn’t happen this time,” she explains. “I relaxed. I wasn’t so nit picky about what I sang or how I said it. I just let it go. It wasn’t easy, but we got through it and it was good.”
It’s not the only current collaboration for Badu, who recently teamed up with the Flaming Lips for “Now I Understand” (featuring Biz Markie and iPhone voice Siri). She’ll be heard on two tracks on the Lips’ next album, due out in April, “Babysitter’s Drunk” and a cover of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” She’s working on songs for a solo album she plans to release later this year. In addition, Badu is touring with electronic music outfit the Cannabinoids and plans to team up with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, and Gorillaz vocalist Damon Albarn on a project called Rocketship to the Moon, which has a sound she calls “tribal.”
Outside of music, Badu’s major passion is children—she has three of her own, ages 14, seven and two, and as a midwife in training, has helped deliver eight babies since 2001. "It’s my pleasure to be the welcoming committee,” she says, noting that she had natural births with her own kids. To honor Black History Month, she teaches them “very early on who they are, what their culture is about, and how we got to where we are right now as a race of people.”
All three are interested in music and the arts, she says, especially her seven-year-old daughter, Puma. “She’s always singing and wants to act and model.” Badu says she’ll be supportive if any of her offspring choose showbiz, “but it has to be something you want to do. It’s a lot of commitment,” she’ll tell them. “Follow your heart. Don’t let anybody infiltrate your dream, especially you. And be fearless. Give your all every time and feel the success in that.”
Re: Generation Music Project opens in select cities on February 23. Click here for locations: http://www.regenerationmusicproject.com/
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