(Unedited and nonlinear) About last night. V103 Summer Block Party headlining E. Badu and guests: Jazmine Sullivan, SWV, Tank and Guordan Banks. On the lake! The breeze at Northerly Island, Erykah Badu’s words/presence and my peace of mind were freed with the morphing of “Cleva,” into Roger Troutman and Zapp Band’s, “It’s Going to be Alright”—with the spirit of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” The fluidity of the collective alrightness to the personal, “alright with me.”
The ebb of “Didn’t Cha Know’s,” there will be a brighter day into the timelessness of “Believe” from the Wiz. She builds upon traditions and musical foundations layered before her. There have been times where E. has blown me like, tha fuq you on, but it is the center, the core that always draws me to her lyrics. Not the persona, but the core.
She southern and twangy, and as she says, “I’m always saying something that gets me in trouble.” She cracked herself up bagging on Alicia Keys performance at the BET Awards saying something to the effect of, “You see Alicia Keys stealing my ish with her setup of the beatmaker…” She assured us that she was kidding as she said she didn’t originate that.
She was funny…witty, but conceivably onto something, as she shared that she just found out that “it” (life possibly) is all about the “Hokey-Pokey,” put your right foot in…and you shake it all about…
In response to Badu I said to myself, “Hokey-Pokey as a life metaphor, huh? Oh Pisces. Which way the fish swimming tonight?”
But she was clear and fearless when she repeated, “They can’t make us hate. Hate will not win. Don’t nobody follow no mad mug nowhere. Nothing new about hating Black people, but they can’t make us hate. They cant make us hate, pop or break.” The play on hiphop as life, always present.
Though I’d been humming, I can make you put your phone down much of the day, I wasn’t bothered that she didn’t do anything from the mixtape or that she didn’t do “Bag Lady,” which in some ways, from the rumblings of the audience they would have preferred “Bag Lady” over “Tyrone.” Her set wasn’t as polished as I’ve seen in the past, but as I’ve said about many concerts and artists I’ve seen lately, I didn’t need for it to be. I’ve needed honesty and authenticity and presence, because perfection is still the enemy of good enough. Also, it was a multi-artist music block party, so I didn’t expect—though she was the headliner—for her to give us a ten-hour show.
Also on the bill were: Jazmine Sullivan, SWV, Tank and Guordan Banks. Jazmine Sullivan, that sista can sing and emote. Like woh, she definitely has an instrument. She can saaaaaang, and her lower register is nice. I want Jaz, Lizz Wright, Lalah Hathaway and Rachelle Farrell to do an album together. #Dreams
SWV: it was a little odd seeing them on stage after seeing them on their reality show. But, they were like a bowl of comfort food, nostalgic and a throwback. Gourdan Banks = I was confused. His mic sucked (bruh, did you miss soundcheck or were the mic just off) and he was dressed wrong. Lol lol lol. Not wrong, but bruh had on a patterned dinner jacket, tux ensemble (I’m sure it’s a name for it, but it’s slipping my mind and I have no desire to google it.) He only did two songs and walked off the stage pouting. I understand his frustration with the janky mic/sound situation, but considering (according to Ramonski Luv) he has the number song on V103 right now, folks would have vibed with him. I didn’t know who dude was and after this, I probably won’t.
As for Tank…He was my comic relief. I know…I know…create the illusion and fantasy for womyn. That’s his R-n-B soul approach, yadda yadda yadda. Bruh, you try too hard. Sing and be authentic, not cocky, which comes off more like insecurity. Nonetheless, he sang the two songs I like and he tickled me. Better yet, the inebriated sista who was full of life and somebody’s auntie and was a dancing machine and gyrating for Tank was the real MVP and made me smile! She was yelling at Tank to take his shirt off coupled with asking the brotha selling the grown-up drinks: “Um sir, can you bring me a whole bottle of wine.” I bout fell out because he engaged her asking, “Would you like it chilled, and what kind…” Here’s the thing, with all that’s going on in the world, I bask in seeing Black people enjoy ourselves. Come to find out, her seats weren’t even in the front row, next to me, she was supposed to be three rows back. Hilariousness!
Tank didn’t have a band, but it really didn’t faze me cause he knew how to hold the space in a way that didn’t make me miss live instrumentation. And he did get on the keys. I didn’t know he played the nano aka piano. On the keys he did a TGT song and alluded to the maybeness of Tyrese and Genuine being backstage. The womyn in the audience were instantly aroused. Full of anticipation he did not let them down easy he stated: “Imma bring them niggas next time but tonight is about me…” Him on the keyboard reminded me of Jamie Foxx, him being playful and jokey-jokey.
He also did this off-the-cuff thing where he sang about who he saw in the audience. To the white girl he said, “I see a white girl,” and he wondered to himself what she knows about R-n-B and he answered his own question, “Cos she like Black men cos they know how to go deep…deep…deep.” And then somehow he started to perseverate on the word, “Coochie.” I was amused because it reminded me of a scene in Vagina Monologues. But then he started cracking himself up by repeating the word and then acknowledging that he was saying the word like an adolescent boy getting his first sniff.
I remember when Tank first came out with “I Deserve,” in the early 2000’s and I was soooooo excited for his full album to drop. And drop it did, it was a flop. He can sing but just like J. Hud, Jaheim and several others, he would put out a better product if he worked with quality writers and producers. On the last song he did take his shirt off and as he was doing his “sexy,” he stopped singing but you could still hear his voice. Oh okay brothaman, you singing over your own track. Blank stare. Stop body rolling and sing.
After Tank it was time for Badu…
Since 1997, I’ve been settling into Erykah Badu’s lyrics. Her words are rooted in all things vulnerable potty-mouthed-gritty-sistagyrl, with a heaping of love and wisdom…and a heavy-handed dousing of esoteric Kemetic hieroglyph critical-afro-surrealism/futurism cosmic-astro attuned cultural-anthropologism lol lol lol—I recently saw the movie Maggie’s Plan and dude was a ficto-critical anthropologist, hilariousness!
Not that Badu is deep! Ha! Okay, maybe she is, she is a Pisces…she water, but it’s not the deepness that I’m referring to, I’m talmbout the otherworldliness that’s in her music. Her lyrics are often messages from the ancestors, ‘specially tha conjuring of Harriet and Sojourner…Maya and Ethiopian Queens and military leaders known as Candace.
It is her words that’s been the messenger, less into how she looks, attire…does she look “the part,” of being woke. I remember when she had locs and I was confused when it came out that the locs were fake. Now who gives a darn?!?!?!?! Folk were mad cos she broke Common’s feelings, and accused her of inspiring the crocheted pants, which it wasn’t her. He too was exploring and uncovering the many layers of himself.
Nonetheless, she too evolves and leans in, like the rest of us. I do not think it was a gimmick, I think she met herself where she was as we all do as womyn. We thought of her as better or different cause she was “natural,” but in hindsight I don’t think she thought of herself as such, she was just doing her—and I get that 100 grand. Both as Black womyn and as artist we often aren’t allowed to grow or to say “I don’t believe xyz anymore, I’m now rocking with lmnop.”
It reminds me of Lauryn Hill. No, I aint defending her late to concert arse. Which, I am in some ways. Lol lol lol. I saw Lauryn, I think it was two years ago at Chicago’s HOB, and yes, she was late, but what amazed me was how she’d rearranged and remixed most of Mis-education of Lauryn Hill. The creative genius and artistry of that feat blew me away. People were mad about the rearrangement because they said some songs were unrecognizable and it took them a minute to figure out that the lyrics were familiar. I am double-sided on this cause a. I understand audiences wanting the comfort of familiarity; however, b. I so understand stretching as an artist.
Back to Badu and last night. 2016, all the excess has fallen to the weigh side and it is the words, the lyrics that has held its form and authenticity…not stagnation, but form. By the time she hit the stage, after the amazing dance party that had us “house heads” moving, and the other antics of the evening. SN: Brothas, you gotta do betta. You cannot impose upon sistas. You just cannot do that. And you do not get a free pass sober, drunk, in between. Have some friggin’ self-management and regulation. I will write a separate blog, maybe that foolishness. Anyhoo brothas, CONSENT, let’s talk about it.
By the time E. came on, I needed to hear Baduizm. I pulled out my prayer beads, put in my tissue earplugs cos I keep forgetting that I need to be some new real ones, sang loud and swayed to the groove. I just wanted to be in my own world, so I fed into the stereotype of the headwrapped sista, smelling-like incense and nag champa oils and folk left me the fudge alone. That ish is a stereotype, but I will play into when it behooves me. Lol lol lol…E live is always about the smoothness of the groove. Make you just wanna say, DAMN! Her band is always on point, though she didn’t have the flutist last night. As I was saying, I got all up inside the pocket and was lulled by the words…the manifestos…the affirmations.