In the liner notes of her debut album, Baduizm, released 20 years ago on Feb. 11, 1997, Erykah Badu added an extended, cheeky and inside-joke-filled section of thanks and acknowledgements. Those who made the cut include her family, aunts and uncles, her label, the staff of Battery Studios in New York City (where most of the album was finalized), and both “all the fly producers who finessed the album like dat” and “all the producers who made the demo work it’s magic on the label & tricked them into signing me (ha ha).”
There are also extended sections reserved for “my girls, the wizdoms (my strengths),” with nicknames for each (N’Dambi, the soul singer who contributed vocals to “Certainly (Flipped It),” is referred to as Butterfly) and a slot for her dog Bam-Bam; “the Crus and Camps,” such as the Roots, Fugees and Tribe; and “the fellas,” her male friends, collaborators and fellow musicians around at the time such as D’Angelo, Q-Tip and Questlove.
However, Erykah’s connection with some folks paid homage to in the Baduizm notes is less immediately obvious. In a phone conversation about the 20th anniversary of Baduizm, Billboard asked Ms. Badu about her ties to some of those people who did not contribute to the album itself, but who she included in the album booklet. Below are her memories from that time.
Steve Harvey (Comedian, Actor, Television Host): I was Steve Harvey’s personal assistant for a year or so at his comedy club in Dallas. I was inspired so much by his work ethic. He’d be in our makeshift writers room, which was his office, and write some stuff. He allowed me to contribute, too. Comedy is one of my first loves. I started out as a waitress, worked in the ticket booth and slowly worked my way up to being an assistant and stage manager there. I just watched him trust me and encourage me; that was inspiring. He was like a big brother, uncle, father type.
Craig Mack (Former Rapper, Famous for “Flava In Ya Ear”): I just saw him walking down the street one day. I was a big Craig Mack fan. My first Vibe article had just come out. It was 1997 but the record hadn’t come out yet. But I was so excited that when I ran into him, I showed him the article. I said, “Look, this is me.” And he’s like, “That’s ill. Keep pushing, keep pushing.” That’s all that happened.
Roy Hargrove (Grammy-winning Trumpet Player): Best friend. We grew up together in Dallas and went to the same art high school. He played trumpet like a grown old man when he was a child. The first rap group I was in was with him. He was the beat box and I was the rapper. We were called Apples and Honeybun. I was Apples and he was Honeybun because he used to bring one to school to eat every day. My nickname in high school was Apples. We would beat on the table in our science class and rap. We just had a lot of fun, vibing together as kids.
He’s on almost every album that I have, including these next songs I’m working on right now. He’s one of my greatest resources and friends, who is so ahead of his time in maturity, and peculiarly intelligent and creative.