H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground

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Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality

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ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico

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Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much

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Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 

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Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario

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Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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Byron Bay Bluesfest – Only For The Music

On it’s 25th anniversary, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 was the best one for me yet.  It was an unusually comfortable Bluesfest experience under unusually clear, blue Easter skies and sunshine – with the usual phenomenal music artists playing on its 7 stages.

Every year that I’ve gone to Byron Bay Bluesfests past, I have moaned about the things that I’m not into about the overall Bluesfest experience.  Each year after where I can, I’ve bought another costly Bluesfest ticket, and gone back again. I’ve done that for one reason only:  The Music.

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu – Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie + The Taxi Gang-Bluesfest 2014

Despite my grumblings about non-musical aspects of the festival, I always go home from Bluesfest feeling musically satisfied after hearing some of the western world’s most incredible music artists of contemporary history. Just a few of those artists from Bluesfests past are Fred Wesley, Burning Spear, Damian Marley, Ernest Ranglin and Parliament Funkadelic.

Musically, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 went the same way. I went from one stage to another, finding artist after artist who blew me away with their music and/or musicianship.

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At Bluesfest 2014 I also found I had less of the usual non-musical things to moan about. One of the main reasons for that was because this years festival seemed to have much smaller crowds than in others – making the overall festival experience a much more hassle-free and comfortable one.

“Australia’s Premiere Blues and Roots Music Festival”

This year I heard other people moaning about the festival line-up. “Not enough blues”, “No big name acts” etc.  Well thankfully for lovers of reggae, soul, r&b, funk and hip-hop music, Byron Bay Bluesfest hasn’t been just a blues music festival for many years past.  And lots of the artists that performed in 2014 are big name acts in the musical worlds of many (mine) – just not big in the worlds of the people complaining:  Erykah BaduAaron NevilleLarry Graham (former Sly and The Family Stone) – Sly & RobbieThe WailersIndia Arie.

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 poster

The artists below are the ones I caught at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 who sent me away from their shows as high as high can be on their music and/or musicianship.

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 Music

Queen Erykah Badu (USA)

Erykah Badu’s show at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne earlier in the same week of the festival was simply divine. Her festival show, somehow was even more divine again – and for me the top highlight of Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014.

Like in Melbourne, Erykah Badu demonstrated with every sound and movement she made, that she is an incredibly talented artist (and woman) like none other in the world.

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu’s powerful stage presence and incredible vocals captivated me and everyone around me from the moment she stepped onto the stage until coming back from some time amongst the crowd to finish the show.

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos here of Erykah Badu performing ‘I Want You’ ‘…& On’ live at Bluesfest 2014

Aaron Neville (USA)

Aaron Neville and the sounds of his heavenly voice took me to another world.

Now in his 70‘s, naturally his voice has the sounds of life lived. They make that voice ever-so-much richer than in years past when it was of the completely squeeky-clean heavenly kind.

Aaron Neville live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Aaron Neville at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos of Aaron Neville’s performing ‘Fever’ + ‘Everybody Plays The Fool’ live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 here…

 

Sly & Robbie and The Taxi Gang (Jamaica)

The first part of Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang’s Bluefest shows were incredibly tight. Tasty dub and reggae to die for. The energy of the show was high, and rising.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The music stayed tasty and tight all through their set. But the energy dropped and the band seemed to look slightly bored (or embarrassed?) from the time they introduced vocalist Bitty Mclean to join them on stage – as “the new Crown Prince of Reggae Music”.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Check out this video of a song from the first half of Sly & Robbie’s Bluesfest show to hear these words of wisdom…

 “If you’re hot, you’re hot. If you’re not, you’re not. Use what you got.”

+ 1 more…

Sly & Robbie and the other instrumentalists in their band are musically hot, musically brilliant. They use what they got – and it’s more than enough without needing a “crown prince” to croon amongst them.

Check out this video from the second half of Sly & Robbie’s show to see if you agree…

 “The new Crown Prince of Reggae Music”?  Really?  

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Bitty McLean

Chali 2na (USA)

“Hands up if you agree with me that all music played on the radio now is shit?  Welcome to the Chali 2na radio station”.

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na’s words of welcome to the crowd at his Byron Bay Bluefest shows went like that.

So, everyone tuned in to Chali 2na and his 3-piece bands live radio station and went with them on an energetic journey of the funk, hip-hop and reggae kind. Those 2 live radio programs kept the crowd dancing and smiling throughout the hour – and screaming for more when the end came.  The best and longest dances I had at Bluesfest 2014 were at these two Chali 2na shows.

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos from both Chali 2na’s Bluesfest 2014 shows here (+ 1 below of him emceeing with Ozomatli)

The Wailers (Jamaica)

What else can I say about The Wailers minus Bob Marley except this: stellar musicianship – and good music that made everyone happy.

Video here of The Wailers playing ‘Three Little Birds’ at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014…

The Soul Rebels (USA)

The Soul Rebels with their brass-heavy soul, r&b, funk and jazz music, hail from one of my dream musical destinations of the world – New Orleans.  A 2015 mission of mine, I’m sure.

The Soul Rebels - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The Soul Rebels at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Video here of The Soul Rebels live at Bluesfest 2014…

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station (USA)

The stage show by Larry Graham & Graham Central Station was, well, pretty corny.

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Larry Graham & Graham Central Station live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

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But if you ignored the group’s white glam outfits and show moves; if you just listened to Larry Graham’s phenomenal bass playing; and looked up to see him playing bass so thoughtlessly and effortlessly as though an extension of his body, you found instrumental gold.  Some Sly & The Family Stone tunes were included in the set.

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos of Larry Graham on bass at Bluesfest 2014 here – 1 with the full band + 1 of just he and a drum kit player…

India Arie (USA)

I have loved India Arie’s music for a long time. She was one of those “big name” musical acts that got me to Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014.

India Arie live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

India Arie at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

India Arie played 2 festival shows. I left before the end of the first – and what I heard there didn’t get me back to see the second. The only reason I can figure as to why the show didn’t move me, is the absence of a bass player on stage with her.

India Arie live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014India Arie live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos from India Arie’s 1st Bluesfest show here for you to check out…

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Nigeria)

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 put on a good show of Afrobeat song and dance of old as well as new from their recently released album A Long Way To The Beginning.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

You can check out a video here of Sean Kuti doing his thing at the group’s Bluesfest show + a sample track from the 2008 album Many Things

‘Many Things’ – Seun Kuti – Many Things (2008)

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Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Ozomatli (USA)

Los Angeles based group Ozomatli have been around for 20 years playing their mix of hip-hop, funk, r&b, reggae, dancehall, salsa, cumbia, merengue, samba, comparse & more.

That diversity of musical styles and the vocal and instrumental versatility of its band members, have made every live Ozomatli experience I’ve had a special one. Their Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 shows were no exception.

Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos here of Ozomatli live at Byron Bay Bluesfest

This one with Chali 2na …
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Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The Ones That Might Have Gotten Away

The artists whose shows I heard and loved were of course just a handful of artists who performed at Byron Bay Bluefest 2014.

Also in the line-up were Joss Stone, Dr John, Morcheeba, Elvis Costello, John MayerDoobie Brothers, KC & The Sunshine BandMichael Franti & Spearhead, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, Jack Johnson, Jeff Beck, Dave Matthews Band, Steve Earle & The Dukes + more.

Morcheeba live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Morcheeba at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra (Australia)

Keeping with some Afrobeat flavours, have a listen here to a sample track from one of the Australian groups in the Bluesfest 2014 line-up – The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra

Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - Do Anything Go Anywhere (2010)

Do Anything Go Anywhere (2010)

‘Future Africa’ – Do Anything Go Anywhere (2010) – The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra

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You can check out another sample track + a video of The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra live at AWME (Australasian Worldwide Music Expo) 2013 here.

Musically I think Byron Bay Bluesfest can rightfully claim to be “Australia’s premiere blues and roots festival” – music found in a large part of the western world at least. I maintain that WOMADelaide festival takes the Australian festival prize for musical quality from all corners of the wider world – and importantly, for the things apart from music that make an overall festival experience an amazing one.

Beaver’s Moaning

“It’s pretty much an event where hopefully the vast majority of people are only there for the music. That’s what it’s all about. There’s not an awful lot of other effects happening at Bluesfest. I realised a long time ago it’s a music festival, that’s all it is. It’s not about prettying the site up and all that. We put our money into musicians”

Peter Noble – Festival Director of Byron Bay Bluesfest (from interview in Melbourne’s Beat Magazine – April 2014)

So, Byron Bay Bluesfest is what Peter Noble says it is.

The festival undoubtedly brings amazing music and amazing musicians to Australia.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie

But for me and everyone I know, a good music festival experience is about so much more than the music.

Personally I’d love to see more festival money spent on those “other effects” and “prettying the site up” – for the benefit of everyone who spends their money on going to Bluesfest to hear its legendary artists.

Bluesfest owns the land where the festival happens – on a beautiful tea tree farm at Tyagarah, just outside the town of Byron Bay (one of the world’s alternative-living, natural paradises). They can make the festival site and people’s festival experience whatever they want it to be.

On a site that is surrounded by trees, I’d love to see some trees inside the festival space.

At a festival that lets thousands and thousands of ticket holders through its gates each day, I’d love to see that tiny site in the middle of the photo become a much bigger space – where people could move around it freely and in comfort – without feeling like a cow being herded slowly between stages.

I’d love to see the creation of lots of different types of meeting spaces inside the festival site where people can relax and hang out together during those long festival days and nights. More than a big canteen-style food court where you eat and run. More grass for people to sit on instead of gravel. Bars with chairs inside them to sit and have a drink. More cafes, and restaurants to hang out in.

For an extra $350 the financially privileged of the world can buy a VIP ticket so they can enjoy some small comforts the rest of the festival punters can’t – a VIP bar and toilets with smaller lines, and some comfortable seats to rest their weary bones upon.

This year for an extra $1590 on top of the ticket price, the ever-so-privileged (and dare I say stupid?) people of the world could “treat themselves to something really special” by buying themselves entry to the VIP Sunset Club. There, in the middle of the festival site, they could “watch the hustle and bustle of Bluesfest from the private balcony”.

VIP Sunset Club - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Bluesfest VIP Sunset Club- as advertised on www.bluesfest.com.au

VIP Sunset Club - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Bluesfest 2014 VIP Sunset Club – as is

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I’d love to see money spent by the festival on making everyone’s festival experience a more comfortable one. We have enough inequalities and class structures in the world already – let’s not create them in our music festivals too.

Byron Bay Bluesfest is what it is, now. We’ll see what it becomes. The festival site at Tyagarah is a relatively new one for Bluesfest.  It will get better with age no doubt.

Hopefully one day I’ll have lots more reasons to give you apart from the music for why I want to get myself to Byron Bay Bluesfest whenever I can.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Before leaving Bluesfest 2014 I bought myself a season pass for Bluesfest 2015 at early bird prices – because next year I know that like always, the line-up will include incredible music artists I simply must experience live. If you want to get yourself to the festival in 2015, the sooner you buy tickets the better – prices will go up and up until Bluesfest comes around next Easter and a season pass is nearly double its cost now.

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Erykah Badu + DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown on a Lunar Eclipsed Night in Melbourne

Before breaking into ‘Orange Moon’ on a lunar eclipsed night in Melbourne last week, Erykah Badu counted her blessings for the beginnings of her record making career under a similar moon around 20 years ago.

I’d say everyone in the crowd listening to Erykah Badu and her band live at the Palais Theatre, were counting their own blessings for having Erykah Badu and her music in their world.

Later that night at the Toff In Town, everyone on the dance floor moving to the selections of DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown (aka Erykah Badu) was probably counting the same blessings.

The two Erykah Badu shows that night were of a different kind of divinity – and blessed I definitely was to experience both of them.

Erykah Badu Live at The Palais Theatre

Erykah Badu has released four studio albums since the first and platinum selling Baduizm in 1997. To her great credit as an artist, each of those albums sounds different to the one before.  She has always made unique and innovative, naturally-evolving contemporary music for the time.

In 2014 Erykah Badu’s ability to make her music sound fresh, innovative and current, remains unchanged.

At the Palais Theatre she and her band took us to revisit each Erykah Badu album yes. But none of the songs she performed live sounded the same as on the albums. Each one was a new, longer and magnificent version of its original. Different arrangements, improvisation, solos, vocal harmonies, Queen Badu tapping away on an MPC as well as the presence of a DJ mixing things up amongst the drums, bass and keyboard players – all made those Erykah Badu songs ones never heard before.

Erykah Badu Live @ The Palais Theatre - Melbourne, Australia - April 2014

The band played with a distinctive finesse found only in their part of the world, and were super tight. But it was Erykah Badu on the microphone that demanded my complete attention from start to finish. With each movement of her body, and every sound she sang, Erykah Badu breathed truth, conviction and life into all of her songs, no matter their age. I believed and was absolutely mesmerised by every one of those sounds and movements.

Erykah Badu Live @ The Palais Theatre - Melbourne, Australia - April 2014

Photo by Meiwah Williams

Erykah Badu delivered every song with the confidence, strength and talents of a very special woman and artist, and yes without doubt the Queen of Neo Soul (soul/jazz/r&b/funk/hip-hop fusion). Erykah Badu deserves all the respect and appreciation she has in the musical world – now more than ever in the past 20 years.

Here you can check out some (ever-so-dodgy) videos of Erykah Badu live at The Palais Theatre…


Hiatus Kaiyote

Erykah Badu was supported at the Palais Theatre (and her subsequent Sydney show) by Haitus Kaiyote.

Hiatus Kaiyote Live @ The Palais Theatre - Melbourne, Australia - April 2014

Hiatus Kaiyote at Palais Theatre
Photo by Meiwah Williams

After my experience trying to hear Nai Palm through the noisy crowd at her solo show the week before, hearing Nai Palm’s vocals and guitar with the full Hiatus Kaiyote band behind her in a theatre environment, did Hiatus Kaiyote’s music the justice it deserves.

The musicianship of the Hiatus Kaiyote members, and their music with all its many polyrhythms and changes, really is a unique and special thing in Australia and the world. The new tracks they played from their forthcoming album were my favorite in their set.

You can check out sample tracks from Hiatus Kaiyote’s debut album Tawk Tomahawk here.

Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk

Tawk Tomahawk (2012)

DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown @ The Toff In Town

“When I DJ… I’m paying attention to my mixes, I’m paying attention to my choices and selections. That’s my main focus. I do it fearlessly, because I never underestimate the audiences’ ability to feel. Music is the sixth element; it brings nostalgia, it brings healing and it moves us.”…Erykah Badu (http://serato.com/icon/erykah-badu)

After leaving Erykah Badu’s Palais Theatre show, punters got to have themselves a second divine dose of Erykah Badu that night at the Toff In Town.

DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown (aka Erykah Badu) - Melbourne, Australia - April 2014

There in her alter ego of DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown, Erykah Badu undoubtedly bought the crowd both nostalgia and healing, and moved them through every single beat of her long set.  She played classic and ever-so-tasty hip-hop, soul, reggae and r&b tunes from legendary artists of the likes of Bob Marley, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Outkast, Public Enemy and Lauryn Hill.

DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown (aka Erykah Badu) - Melbourne, Australia - April 2014

Amongst the selections of tracks by other artists were Erykah Badu’s own songs, parts of which she sung live, as well as a Hiatus Kaiyote track that Nai palm joined her on stage for.

You can check out Erykah Badu singing ‘Window Seat’ and Outkast’s ‘So Fresh So Clean’ in the dark at the Toff In Town here…

Erykah Badu, demonstrated by DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown, has absolutely awesome tastes in music.  This was a dream gig  for lovers of great hip-hop and soul music like myself.

Samples of Erykah Badu’s Musical Evolution

If you don’t already know and love Erykah Badu’s long discography of music, you can check out some dirty, compressed mp3 versions of her musical evolution here. All 5 Erykah Badu albums in their full sound glory are so easy to buy from your local record store or on-line.

Baduizm (1997)

Baduizm (1997)

‘Rimshot (Intro)’ – Baduizm – Erykah Badu

‘4 Leaf Clover’ – Baduizm – Erykah Badu

 

Mama's Gun (2000)

Mama’s Gun (2000)

‘…& On’ – Mama’s Gun – Erykah Badu

‘Penitentiary Philosophy’ – Mama’s Gun – Erykah Badu

 

Worldwide Underground (2003)

Worldwide Underground (2003)

‘Bump It’ – Worldwide Underground – Erykah Badu

‘Woo’ – Worldwide Underground – Erykah Badu

 

New Amerykah: Part 1 (4th World War) (2008)

New Amerykah: Part 1 (4th World War) (2008)

‘The Healer’ – New Amerykah: Part 1 (4th World War) – Erykah Badu

‘That Hump’ – New Amerykah: Part 1 (4th World War) – Erykah Badu

 

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: Part 2 (Return of the Ankh)

New Amerykah: Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) (2010)

‘Incense’ – New Amerykah: Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) – Erykah Badu

‘Love’ – New Amerykah: Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) – Erykah Badu

 

Erykah Badu

 

Erykah Badu Live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 – tonight!!

I’m heading out now to get my third dose of Erykah Badu’s divinity before she leaves Australia this time.  She and her band are headlining the main stage tonight at the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 🙂 .

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