On the last day of the year, I’ve generally stayed at home with candles lit and music on, while writing and reflecting on the upcoming year. My plans would have probably been the same for 2012, but one person changed all that.
Upon discovering she was spending her New Year’s Eve in Oakland at the Fox Theatre, I did what any fanatic fan would do – I immediately sent word out that I was going and asked if anyone wanted to join.
I feel as though she and I share a special bond. We do have a few things in common – we are both water signs (she’s a Pisces, I’m a Cancer); she also attended my alma mater, Grambling State University.
I would love to say that I knew her while I was there. It would be nice if I had bumped into her a time or two on campus and knew she was going to be somebody (at Grambling, the motto is “The place where everybody is somebody,” so I guess all students are somebody). But, alas, we were not on campus together; I believe she left the year before I entered the University.
But I do actually know someone who really knows her, so there’s something else we have in common.
Enough of the digression. One thing I clearly remember from my Grambling days is listening to Baduizm for the first time in 1997. I was in my last semester, set to graduate and officially become a “grown” woman. Gone would be the safety net of college life; now I had student loans to repay, a car note to worry about, and a job to secure.
So in my life walks this woman singing about her cipher moving like a rolling stone, picking her friends like she picks her fruit, and asking who gave anyone permission to rearrange her. And I recall thinking, she’s absolutely right on point!
Erykah’s lyrics and music were refreshingly different than most R&B of the 90s. While we had Mary J. Blige singing about Real Love over a hip-hop beat, Erykah sang about Next Lifetime and No Love. She was an inspirational change of pace, and I clung on to her every word.
I am a lover of everything Badu. When Mama’s Gun was released in 2000, I just knew she wrote many of those songs about my life. From Didn’t Cha Know, to . . . & On to Kiss Me On My Neck, Erykah’s growth was apparent.
So, back to her show on Dec. 31, 2012. It’s been 15 years since Baduzim’s debut and Erykah has subsequently released five more albums. Each has showcased an ever-changing Badu, but one thing has remained consistent – Erykah’s live performances.
They are NEVER a disappointment.
Strolling on stage while her band played a lazy and drawn out version of 20 Feet Tall (it came across as if they were still in sound check), she paused at the microphone, taking in all the audience love, before proclaiming, “My love, what did I do to make you fall so far from me?” At the end of the song (and come to think of it, she did this on every song), Erykah struck a warrior/goddess pose.
The next three songs (The Healer/Hip Hop, Me and My People) are all from New Amerykah: Part One (4th World Order) – the one album whose meaning I’m still working on grasping. This provided me, however, the perfect opportunity to stop and do some recording.
Playing On & On and . . . & On back to back, Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop) followed with a surprise appearance by Oakland’s own Raphael Saadiq who, according to Erykah, provided the base line for the song. (Side note, I normally am up dancing to this song, but I sacrificed this time so I could record this performance for my readers. I’m glad I did.)
As the clock neared midnight, the band began the first notes of Danger. About half way through the song, a count-down appeared on the screen behind the stage and we all stopped, screamed happy New Year, and went back to partying.
During Back in the Day (Puff), Erykah exclaimed, “Now is the opportunity for you to smoke,” as if that hadn’t been already occurring.
At some point, she took her shoes off and ended the night with Didn’t Cha Know, the first verse from Out My Mind, Just in Time (the one song I just had to hear) and Bag Lady, which I think was an appropriate song to finish with because in the new year, I definitely will be working on letting the bags go!
Briefly about the opening act: I’ve heard of The Coup, an Oakland-based, political hip-hop act, but have never listened to their music. I could not understand one single word their front man Boots Riley was saying – even when I plugged my ears (which usually works but was of no use to me in this case). After they finished the last song, I sat perplexed because I wasn’t sure what I just witnessed; all I know is I was ready for them to get off the stage.
Erykah’s setlist: 20 Feet Tall; The Healer/Hip Hop; Me; My People; On & On; . . . & On; Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop); Ye Yo; Danger; The Cell; Soldier; Umm Humm; Window Seat; Time’s A Wastin’; Back in the Day (Puff); Didn’t Cha Know; Incense; Out My Mind, Just in Time; and Bag Lady