After her audience is plied with a musical foreplay, Erykah Badu opens the Atlanta stop on the 25-city ‘Unfollow Me’ tour with a clear directive. “Atlanta! Unfollow Me! Cuz I’m lost too. We’re all trying to find our way. And You definitely can’t go where I’m going because I’ve prepared that place just for me. And a good magician doesn’t teach people there magic, they don’t do that. A good magician helps you find yours. So may we all find our magic here tonight together,” she greets the crowd of over 30,000 Neo soul enthusiasts.
Helping people find their magic is what Badu does, whether it’s through her music, acting as a birthing doula, the rare occasion that she addresses her fans online, covering Vogue magazine or creating an incense with a scent that replicates her vagina, she consistently points her tribe toward magic. In 1997 the world was introduced to a new religion titled, Baduizm and she has been leading lovers of music, love and life ever since. Today at fifty-two years old, Badu has been performing over half her life. She’s unapologetically loved some of the most sought after kings on the planet and raised three beautiful children. Her appeal is commercial yet feels grassroots, she is a mystery. She is a vibe you can’t put into words; possesses a sensuality that is undefined. By her own admission, she’s clever.
A sapiosexual’s dream, Badu attended Grambling State University after high school but it’s the way she embraces life that rendered her a teacher /leader. In an industry with cookie cutter artists and copy and paste music, Badu stands alone. The ‘Unfollow Me’ tour set feels like a spiritual experience including cultural art, her signature soulful vocals and musicality in its highest form. It’s a blatant celebration of Blackness, an ode to a heritage that she teaches through her entire set. Holding up her fist in between songs, she is reminiscent of a funkdafied 2023 reincarnation of Angela Davis. Badu has never shied away from speaking out against civil and racial issues, especially when they pertain to her culture.
After the show, she’s sitting cross-legged on the floor with a small group of fans answering questions. “What is revolutionary? Revolutionary is being yourself in a world that tries to make you be a copy. Revolutionary is when you wear your hair natural when they world tells you not to. Revolutionary is giving someone else a contact, even before you are where you want to be. Revolutionary is working for the betterment of a world, after you are no longer a part of it,” she reflects.
The majority of the room consists of young women, half of them giddy with the thought of asking one of their sheroes advice, the other half content to be in the presence of a superstar. Badu reaches out to take the microphone and touches the girl sitting next to her who immediately bursts into a fit of nervous giggles. The question is simple yet thoughtful. “What was the moment for you that lead to self-awareness?”
“A pivotal moment for me was when I was able to walk away from someone I loved. I remember sitting up in bed that day and realizing I had to walk away. I had to cry through it, eventually I laughed through it and then one day a huge door opened full of light. It took a little time, but eventually I passed all the tests and then I knew I could always get through it,” Badu shares.
A young man with his pregnant girl asks how he can support his girl as they prepare to welcome their first baby. Badu looks him squarely in the eyes, “Don’t be no hoe ass nigga. If you love a woman, protect her at all costs.” She turns her attention to the young woman and then addresses the other women in the room, “To the women, carry your own bag,” she instructs.
The last question for the evening asks Badu’s definition of success. She looks around the room making eye contact with everyone surrounding her on the floor.
“If I’m being honest, it looks like easy breaths and meditation,” Badu shares her denotative meaning of success. Music. Meditation. Breathing. Sunlight. Trees. Nature is always teaching us if we’d take the time to listen,”