Woke. A word on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days when talking about anything political, spiritual, social justice or cultural that spits facts or takes you to a higher consciousness. It was once a word that black folks came up with and used but has since like most words made its way into the mainstream culture and now different people use the word for different reasons.
Celebrity Woke Culture. For a long time being woke wasn’t really the coolest thing out there in mainstream culture and thus felt a lot more genuine than it does today. Since many celebrities have started to adopt the “woke” mind frame who never really displayed that side of themselves before it has felt contributed and fake to a degree as it feels they do it to look cool on social media. Many celebrities back in the day from Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory and Nina Simone to Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and D’Angelo to Common, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and the one Ms. Erykah Badu all were considered the “woke kids” of their generation.
In 1997 a very good year for the woke celebrities, Erykah Badu came out with her critically and fan loved album Baduizm which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Up to that point in the R&B and hip-hop music of the ’80s/’90s we hadn’t really seen anyone like her. Sure in the late ’80s we had people like Queen Latifah and her back to Africa style and then in the early ’90s we had A Tribe Called Quest and The Native Tongues bringing that consciousness to the hip-hop music and their style of dress. Then in the mid-’90s the Fuggees would come out and bring us our woke sister Lauryn Hill aka L. Boogie. She in 1998 would come out with the second coming of woke black music in The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. We would also in the mid-to late ’90s get artist and groups like Common Sense, The Roots, Black Star, KRS-One, Macy Gray, Tupac, Dead Prez, Brand Nubian, Rage Against The Machine, Arrested Development and many others who became staples for every woke kid who burns incense, went “natural”, was very spiritual, rocked crystals, didn’t always shave and was all about fighting the power. In the early 2000s some more artist would come out as a reflection of that time like Alicia Keys, Keyne West, Jill Scott, India. Arie, Goapele, Floetry, John Legend, Musiq Soulchild, Anthony Hamilton, Corinne Bailey Rae and many others.
After Ms. Badu’s first commercial success she continued to keep putting out records every few years to fan praise and critical success. Now the year is 2018 and many of Erykah Badu’s contemporaries have left the music scene or fallen off the radar of the mainstream music listener and she remains one of the last ones standing. So is that a good think or a bad thing? On the one had if you’re a big fan of her then your glad she has been able to stand the test of time and stay some what relevent thanks to social media and her hosting the Soul Train Awards every year. She also has put out a few tracks with some young kids like D.R.A.M and put out a mixtape in 2015 where she put her own style on a cover of one of Drake’s biggest songs Hotline Bling. Erykah Badu tours a lot too so new ears and eyes have been introduced to her music as well. All that has helped to salitafy her in the music scene as a power house artist. On the other hand too much exposure like this can lead her into some hot water which it has over the years.
Like I said earlier being woke now feels like a cool social media trend where people and celebraties post “fake woke” post and try to seem very “real” all the time. For a lot of people and celebraties that has not gone too well as most people are not fully interested in your “real” “woke” comments on things going on in the world. Being woke has made it so everyone must have a opionion on everything good or bad and if you don’t agree with someone on something your atomatically torn apart for it. Or in a lot of cases when it comes to celebraties if they state how they feel in an article or video even if they back it up with facts most people only see the headlines and then start to go off on that person with no real facts that they watched or read the piece at all to back up their comments.
This takes us to Erykah Badu’s most recent interview she did with Vulture.com where she was asked some pretty dicey questions about some heavy topics which I personally think were thrown in the article to start some drama. But then I also think Ms. Badu has a way of sticking her foot in her mouth in the way she words things. I get what she meant but she could have said it differently.
So basically the interview starts off pretty normal just talking about current music and such and like in a lot of interviews lately she keeps giving praise to XXXTentacion even with all the controversy surrounding him (and his music sucks). Then it goes into separating art from the artist when asked about XXX’s situation and other artist, tv stars and celebraites like Bill Cosby, Louis C.K., and Fala. Ms. Badu had this to say on the subject:
“It takes me back to a story my grandmother told me about Jesus and Barabbas. Jesus is standing on one side, Barabbas is standing on the other side, and the people have to choose which one of them could go free. Some people started yelling, “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!” Then so many people were doing that the others found safety in numbers, and they also started yelling, “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!” People walked up who didn’t even know what was going on and they also started yelling for Barabbas to go free. I always think about that. It’s so important to me.
I think I follow, but can you tell me more about how that parable applies here?
That I don’t want to get scared into not thinking for myself. I weigh everything. Even what you just asked me, I would have to really think about it and know the facts in each of those situations before I made a judgment. Because I love Bill Cosby, and I love what he’s done for the world. But if he’s sick, why would I be angry with him? The people who got hurt, I feel so bad for them. I want them to feel better, too. But sick people do evil things; hurt people hurt people. I know I could be crucified for saying that, because I’m supposed to be on the purple team or the green team. I’m not trying to rebel against what everybody’s saying, but maybe I want to measure it. Somebody will call me and ask me to come to a march because such and such got shot. In that situation I want to know what really happened. I’m not going to jump up and go march just because I’m green and the person who got shot is green. The rush to get mad doesn’t make sense to me.”
Basically what she was trying to say was that she wants to be a free-thinker and not let the masses and celebrities think for her. That’s definitely something I can respect about Erykah Badu she has always been her own person who lived by her own rules. She also said she was not about to hop up and go to a march just because x-y-z person gets shot until she finds out all the facts about the situation which I also admire that she wants to be informed and really know the issues before just diving right into something because her people are.
Next is when she starts to tread into dangerous territory. This is what the interviewer said which triggered Ms. Badu to go into the tail spin she did.
“I know this is maybe a weird pivot, but I think it’s relevant. When I was doing research for this interview I came across an article from after you’d gone to Israel, where the Israeli press was linking you to Louis Farrakhan and his alleged anti-Semitism and it seemed that you were being criticized for defending him rather than denouncing anti-Semitism. I don’t know if those reports were accurate, but isn’t it valid to criticize the hurtful idea in an instance like that? Even if you respect the person who holds that idea?
Absolutely. But I never made a statement about Louis Farrakhan — ever. What you’re talking about happened in Palestine. At the time, the working title of my album was Saviours’ Day — which is a holiday for the Nation of Islam but also my birthday. So I’d gone to PalestineIn a press conference prior to a 2008 show in Tel Aviv, Badu expressed solidarity with Palestinian rappers who use hip-hop as a “form of liberation,” and defended Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, Million Man March leader, and alleged anti-Semite.
He is “not an anti-Semite,” said Badu. “He loves all people.”and journalists asked me, “Do you believe in Louis Farrakhan? Do you follow him?” Sure I do. I’ll follow anyone who has positive aspects. He single-handedly changed half of the Nation of Islam to clean eating, clean living, caring for their families. He has flaws — like any man — but I’m not responsible for that. I said I’ve appreciated what he’s done for a lot of black Americans. I mean, I’m not Muslim, I’m not Christian, I’m not anything; I’m an observer who can see good things and bad things. If you say something good about someone, people think it means that you’ve chosen a side. But I don’t choose sides. I see all sides simultaneously.”
This and the next bit had people coming for Erykah’s head! Don’t Play with the Jewish Community son! Lets continue and see where else Ms. Badu is going to take this.
“That’s not something most of us are good at.
We’re not, and I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with anything I had to say about Louis Farrakhan. But I’m not an anti-Semitic person. I don’t even know what anti-Semitic was before I was called it. I’m a humanist. I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler.
Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.
No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?
Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, MarsBadu’s daughter with enigmatic rapper Jay Electronica. She also has another daughter, Puma, with the West Coast rapper the D.O.C., I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that you might be operating on a higher moral plane than I am, but I think going down the route of “Hitler was a child once too” is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction.
Maybe so. It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes.
But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?
Why can’t I say what I’m saying? Because he did such terrible things?
Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?
You asked me a question. I could’ve chosen not to answer. I don’t walk around thinking about Hitler or Louis Farrakhan. But I understand what you’re saying: “Why would you want to risk fueling hateful thinking?” I have a platform, and I would never want to hurt people. I would never do that. I would never even imagine doing that. I would never even want a group of white men who believe that the Confederate flag is worth saving to feel bad. That’s not how I operate.
I appreciate that. But I really struggle with the idea of how much we’re supposed to make an effort to understand or have empathy for people who have dangerously backwards or hateful thinking. You want to take the moral high ground, but sometimes that also feels the same as ceding territory.
You got that Pisces in you, that two-fish.”
Now the whole bit about Hitler was taken out of context. If this person had not started on about Farrakhan and the anti-Semitic stuff I don’t think Erykah would have answered the question like that. But then again Ms. Badu has said some questionable things over the years like when she tried to put the blame on young girls and their skirt lengths as to why old men were attracted to them. Because it’s in old men’s nature to like young girls and young girls have to dress modestly to keep them away. Which is load of BS by the way! So I can’t fully blame Erykah for her comments but at the same time she is a grown adult with a mind of her own if she wants to have empathy for a guy who caused mass genocide be my guest sister just don’t expect many people to come to your defense sorry. And of course I got what she meant when she made those comments its kind of like loving all people even those who seek to bring you harm because they matter too and have families. I get it but again you should have worded it differently.
The rest of the article goes into a different direction but later on Erykah apologies for what she said earlier after finding out her interviewer was Jewish.
“But, I’m sorry, did I offend you in any way earlier when you thought I was defending anti-Semitism?
I wasn’t offended. It’s more that I was worried —
“Is she about to get in here and Black Power me to death?”
No no, not that at all. But I think partly it’s that, as a Jew —
Okay, I could tell.
Is it my schnoz?
Just, you got a whole Jewish thing.
I’ll take that as a compliment.
It is. A sexy JewishWriter’s note: Badu is a very generous soul. thing.
But no, I wasn’t offended.
Oh good. That makes me happy.”
At the end of the day I hope this taught some people a lesson. Celebrities even the woke ones are just celebrities and people. They didn’t ask to be your gurus and even though they might put out an enlightened aura does not mean that they 1 shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions and 2 that they are made to be these larger than life figures.
Anyway here is more of my thoughts on this:
Anyway thats all for now.