When word gets out that Erykah Badu is performing in your town, you don’t care if it’s just her or she has a crew along for the ride. You buy your ticket and pray she doesn’t start 4 hours after the promised start time. A long way from her home of Texas, Erykah Badu and her band of merry men (The Cannabinoids), captivated a packed audience at New York’s Best Buy Theater. And they didn’t keep the crowd waiting forever!
Each member of the group (which apparently Erykah is a member/de facto leader) has their own unique introduction to the crowd. We learn who’s who on the team along with individual theme music to paint the picture. Erykah walks in to the energizing theme from the 1970s television series Wonder Woman. Two familiar questions kick off the evening. “Brothas how yall feel?” “Sisters yall alright?” The first songs The Healer and her debut single On&On gives a good image of who Erykah was and who she is today. In fact, two members of her group were actually producers on her first album Baduizm.
It seems that the Cannabinoids project is a chance for Erykah to return to her Texas roots in a way. The original music performed seems to allow Erykah to do her own digital version of a big band. At one point the Cannabinoids invoke the spirit of the late J. Dilla by performing over his Circulate instrumental. Erykah is holding court with every song, even when taking a sip of tea in between verses. Ms. Badu is one of the few women in this era to hold the role of front woman with all men backing her up.
The rock hard song Soldier gets plenty of mileage, as Erykah takes her time with this song giving each verse a hip hop type of performance (complete with hand gestures). New songs from the upcoming Cannabinoids project receive a positive response. The records have a heavy southern hip hop sound with Erykah digging in on the vocals. Their update to the classic Money Can’t Buy Me Love worked very well. However, it was the familiar songs like Didn’t Cha Know and Turn Me Away (Get MuNNy) that turned the place out. Erykah gave each member of the Cannabinoids an opportunity to show how they earn their spot on the team with a solo. One member Picnic is highlighted for his voice, while producer S1 shows how he built the Kanye West hit Power. Numerous times Erykah is asked to bring the show to an end, and each time she rebels with another song (and a hearty F You to the stage manager). The crowd loves every bonus record wondering which will be the last. At one point the show truly appears to be over and people begin to leave. Of course Erykah, never wanting the moment to end, jumps into the anthem Tyrone, which makes everyone go crazy. She finishes the evening with another heavy hitter Bag Lady opting for a smooth transition into Nate Dogg’s vocals on Snoop’s Aint No Fun to send everyone home.
So if Erykah Badu is in your town, and you hear she’s performing with some guys you’re not familiar with, get a ticket anyway. It’s still Erykah, and who knows you just might hear some new music you might like, and she just might start on time.
Written by Dashaun Simmons for Fusicology NYC | @13rose