Planet Rock

Austin, Texas, SXSW 2005

Planet Rock
Photo By Gary Miller

SXSW Interview: Erykah Badu

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 19

"I was deemed the headwrap high-priestess of neo-soul and I don't even know what that is." Yes, Erykah Badu wants to set the record straight. "My first job is not being a singer. My first job is being a mother, a person, a philanthropist within my community." Fielding questions from the Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky, the four-time Grammy winner recounted her experiences with fame since catching her first big break by way of a 1995 SXSW performance backing the rap group Heads-n-Dreads at Catfish Station. "I still haven't recovered from 1997. I became very popular very fast. I won 12 awards that year. Spirituality was in. But for too long after that I had to walk around like I was Mickey Mouse, just smiling all of the time and shaking peoples' hands, even when I didn't feel up to it." As a retreat from the machinery, the South Dallas native built a home studio and immersed herself in numerous outreach investments including the upkeep of the historic Black Forest Theater. Now juggling quandaries such as "with a nonprofit you need to raise money to raise money," the former Erykah Free hopes to capitalize on her celebrity for the benefit of others. "My new label Control Freaq seeks to show artists how to run their own labels. We want to free both the slaves and the slave masters."

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