First-time Beale Street Music Festival headliner Erykah Badu grew up listening to '70s soul and '80s hip-hop, but was compared to Billie Holiday with her breakout first album, Baduizm. While it’s bass-heavy R&B, Badu's languorous, occasionally tortured vocals and delicate phrasing stood above other female R&B singers. As the singer/songwriter responsible for all but one of the songs on Baduizm, her first single, "On & On" hit number 12, became a number one R&B hit, and pushed the album to number two on the charts.
Born Erica Wright in Dallas in 1971, Badu attended a school of the arts and was working as a teacher and part-time singer when she opened for D'Angelo at a 1994 show, and soon found herself opening for R&B acts as well as rap's Wu-Tang Clan. In 2000 she returned with her highly anticipated second studio album, Mama's Gun, which contained the hit single "Bag Lady." 2008's New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, was a heavy and abstract release featuring collaborations with the members of Sa-Ra and Georgia Anne Muldrow; it reached number two on the Billboard 200 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, looser and more playful than Pt. 1, followed in 2010. In 2015 she released the official mixtape But You Cain’t Use My Phone.
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