Erykah Badu’s musical career has always been set on a clear upwards trajectory. Her distinct vocal style and careful lyrical construction gained her critical and commercial acclaim as one of the first neo-soul artists in the mid 90’s. Her genre bending musical skill and distinct fashion sense have also earned her many favourable comparisons to both music and style greats. Following her impressive Bluesfest performance, Erykah returns to Australia for the second time in 2014 to perform in the Lavazza Coffee marquee at the Melbourne Cup.
You were in Australia earlier this year for Bluesfest and now you’re back to party and perform at the Melbourne Cup. Is there a chance of any other surprise performances while you’re down here?
I hope so. I’m always looking forward to running into some kind of DJ thing but I’m primarily there for the Cup.
You’re the face of Givenchy’s SS14 collection. Is that going to come into play in your race day style choices?
You know what? I don’t know. I kind of play it by ear. I’m sort of hodge podge when it comes to couture so I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Have you got any bets ready for the cup?
I can’t tell you that because I wanna be the only one.
This isn’t your first time you’ve come down to Melbourne. Have you got any favourite places you like to eat or visit while you’re down under?
I’m not really that familiar with Melbourne but one thing I really love about Melbourne as a whole is the air. There’s something really clear about it. In many other cities and countries I visit all over the world, it’s really smoggy but [in Melbourne] the air is so clean. I just enjoy standing on my balcony, just walking, just getting out of the car. There’s something really clean about it and it makes a difference too in the people’s attitude. People seem so friendly and laid back, it’s just an awesome place to be. I would love to have a place there someday.
Maybe you can have a look around while you’re down for the cup.
I have thought about it.
Last time you were here, your support act was Wellington dub group Fat Freddy’s Drop. What do you think of the Australian and New Zealand reinterpretation of that roots kind of sound?
It’s all tribal, it’s kind of all the same. It’s the same vibe, kind of one living, breathing organism. What I notice most about it is the familiarity with the drums. It’s very connected.
You’ve got a new album rumoured to come out in 2015. Should we prepare for a New Amerykah Part 3 or are you changing course?
No, you know what? The New Amerykah project’s over. That idea is done, I said what I had to say about it. Where I am right now, it’s kind of like a downloading period. I don’t have anything at all to say so that’s sort of starting in a really good place where I know it’s going to be totally honest because I’m inspired by the music so it’s whatever the music brings out. I have nothing to say at all right now so I’m in that place where I’m starting with a blank canvas.
I just saw a video of you performing at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre with Childish Gambino earlier this month. You described him as one of your ‘frequency heroes’. What does frequency hero mean to you?
It means he’s in tune with what’s going on right now in the universe as far as sonically. When I listened to his album that he has called Because the Internet, the frequency I can relate to. It’s familiar but something totally new at the same time. I just think that it seems he was trying to declare what was going on the internet right now. I think he was trying to combine, sonically, music from what he was feeling and music and sounds and tones that sound good to the heart.
Can you explain what motivated your ‘hustle experiment’ in Times Square earlier this year?
Yeah, I made $3.50 which is, ironically, the lyrics from my song On and On. I don’t know, I was just walking down the street after getting dinner and just decided to do it on a whim. No particular real reason but it ended up being some kind of political statement. I put it on my Facebook as an experiment. I put it up and it went kind of viral.
You’re often dubbed ‘the Queen of neo-soul’. Is there anyone on the scene at the moment who you think might be in competition for that throne?
I don’t know. I think neo-soul was something that was coined in 1997 there should be some other kind of queen. I don’t think anyone wants to be that queen anymore. There’s got to be something new or something amazing born. I don’t think anyone’s going to think about neo-soul in the next 10 years. There’s going to be something more amazing. A baby is being born right now with some totally new sonic sound.
You’re big on the idea of inter-generational collaboration too, aren’t you?
Absolutely. Whatever feels good, you know? It doesn’t matter. I think it’s about what we feel. If it feels good, cool!
Erykah will be performing in the Lavazza marquee at the Melbourne Cup on November 4. Side shows have not been confirmed.