2018 Summer Spirit Festival Part One

Erykah Badu was born on February 26, 1971 to William and Kollen Wright in Dallas, Texas. They named her Erica Abi Wright and she was the first of their three children. She inherited a taste for music from her mother who introduced her to multiple genres of music (Joni Mitchell, Parliament-Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Phoebe Snow, Chaka Khan). At the tender age of four, Badu began singing and dancing in productions at the local Dallas Theatre Centre. It wasn’t until her acting debut in the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center’s musical production of “Really Rosie,” directed by her godmother Gwen Hargrove, that Badu realized she was a natural performer. “I played Alligator,” Badu says, “and at 6 years old, I got my first standing ovation. I knew I wanted to bring people to their feet from that point on.”

Badu stayed true to her artistic leanings and enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in the late ’80s. Tomboyish and a bit of a class clown, Badu devoted most of her time to perfecting her dance form, studying the techniques of Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham, as well as practicing ballet, tap, and modern dance. Badu also sharpened her Hip-Hop skills, freestyling on the Dallas radio station 90.9 FM KNON under the name Apples the Alchemist until she eventually changed the spelling of her name from “Erica Wright” to “Erykah Badu,” “kah” being Kemetic (Egyptian) for a human’s vital energy or “inner-self” and “ba-du” after her favorite jazz scat-sound. But later, Badu would discover that her chosen name holds a far deeper meaning.In 1989, her senior year of high school, she decided to dedicate her life to a path of holistic wellness and became a vegetarian.

Badu enrolled at Grambling State University, where she majored in theater and minored in Quantum Physics. She left in 1993 to pursue music full-time. During the day, she taught drama and dance at the South Dallas Cultural Center and worked as a coffeehouse waitress. At night, she recorded and performed songs like “Appletree,” produced by her cousin Robert “Free” Bradford. In 1994, her 19-song demo caught the attention of aspiring record executive Kedar Massenburg by way of the SXSW music festival. Massenburg signed her to his upstart label Kedar Entertainment. The company eventually merged with Motown/Universal and Badu started opening for D’Angelo, prepping the world for the massive Neo soul movement to come.

The New York Times described Badu’s groundbreaking debut, 1997’s Baduizm, as “traditional soul vocals, staccato hip-hop rhythms and laid-back jazzy grooves.” Yet, hindsight reveals that Badu’s debut was more than just an album, it was the introduction of a new lifestyle. The music evoked speakeasies, incense, head wraps, and boho coffee shop culture all in one easy breath. Propelled by the lead single “On & On,” the album went multi-platinum, winning her two Grammys for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Album. Badu topped Rolling Stone’s Reader’s poll for Best R&B Artist, and Entertainment Weekly named her Best New Female Singer of 1997.
In 2003, she founded her non-profit group, B.L.I.N.D. (Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development), which is geared toward creating social change through economic, artistic, and cultural development. Among B.L.I.N.D.’s many accomplishments, the organization has provided arts, crafts, and dance classes to children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Also in 2004, Badu’s charitable efforts helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the scholarship fund at St. Phillips School and Community Center in Dallas, Texas.

Badu continues to use her platform as an alter. By incorporating instruments such as tuning forks, crystal singing bowls, and gem stones and more into her music, she has created a wave of healing energy throughout the planet. But her true instrument is the 'intent' with which she sings. She has become a spiritual midwife, aiding in the rebirth of moral and spiritual consciousness for her generation. Badu’s artistic and spiritual contributions to humanity earned her an honorary Doctorate degree in Humanities from Paul Quinn College in 2000.

Erykah Badu’s three children, son Seven Sirius (b. 1997) and daughters Puma (b. 2004) and Mars Merkaba (b. 2009), were all born at home with a practicing midwife. She is an advocate of natural childbirth, healthy birth outcomes and breastfeeding for robust infant development. Recently, she was the keynote speaker at the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) 7th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference in October 2010.

Erykah currently studies and apprentices to masters Queen Afua, holistic health guru and spiritual teacher. Dr. Jewel Pookrum , neurosurgeon, physicist and midwife and Dr. Laila Africa, scientist, health practitioner and theorist. In 2006 Erykah was certified as a Holistic Health practitioner thru Dr. Laila Africa and she is also a 3rd Degree Reiki Master-Teacher. Badu hasn’t stopped yet; she continues to study sound and vibration healing and presently assists and apprentices as a direct entry midwife. Erykah has served as doula for five natural births and only has 31 left to becoming a full fledge midwife.

Erykah currently makes her home in Dallas, Texas. Self described as a “mother first”, Badu is a touring artist, DJ, teacher, community activist, 25 yrs vegetarian, recycler, and conscious spirit.

"So much to write and say/Yo, I don't know where to start/So I'll begin with the basics and flow from the heart" – Nas, "Loco-Motive"

Hip-hop is a fickle, ephemeral beast; a genre filled with trend-hopping "artists," corporate hucksters and walking gimmicks desperate to achieve their 15 minutes of shine. Look back at the hip-hop charts 20 years ago—hell, look back 10—and see how many names you're still reading about today.

Ever since a 17-year-old Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones appeared on Main Source's 1991 classic "Live at the Barbeque," hip-hop would be irrevocably changed. Nas. Gifted poet. Confessor. Agitator. Metaphor master. Street's disciple. Political firebrand. Tongue-twisting genius. With music in his blood courtesy of famed blues musician father Olu Dara, the self-taught trumpeter attracted crowds with his playing at age 4, wrote his first verse at age 7 and, with 1994’s Illmatic, created one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time before he could legally drink. Two decades on, Nas remains an incendiary, outspoken and brutally candid rapper on the recently released Life is Good, his tenth album and sixth to debut at the top of the Billboard 200.

Critics and fans immediately flocked to Life is Good, with everyone from Rolling Stone ("He cuts his rhymes with midlife realism and daring empathy") and MTV ("The most emotionally raw record he’s made since his first") to HipHopDX ("An obvious maturation from the veteran") and Pitchfork ("Best New Music") praising the album. Far from divorcing personal problems from a hyperbolic, caricatured alter ego, Life is Good finds Nas confronting the myriad issues he's faced head-on since 2008's Untitled ("Daughters, "Bye Baby"), mixed with a wayward wisdom that allows him to channel the past without attempting to ape it ("Loco-Motive," "Nasty").

"I used to listen to that Red Alert and Rap Attack/I fell in love with all that poetry/Mastered that" – Nas, "The Don"

Before the 13 Grammy nominations, seven platinum albums and Top 5 rankings on MTV's 10 Greatest MCs of All Time and The Source’s Top 50 Lyricists of All Time, 17-year-old Nas would take daily trips to Manhattan hoping to secure a major label deal, only to be shot down by nearly every label. When 3rd Bass co-founder MC Serch brought his demo tape to the attention of Faith Newman, then-Director of A&R for Columbia Records, she made a deal with Serch that day, offering Nas a $17,000 advance and the lifeline to begin his career.

With hundreds of thousands of words alongside entire books written on the album, it seems almost trite today to discuss the universal impact and acclaim that Illmatic had on rap. Put simply: the album has long been considered a masterpiece not just in hip hop, but music as a whole, inspiring countless subsequent rappers and establishing Nas as the most vivid storyteller of urban life since Rakim and Chuck D.

1996’s It Was Written built upon Illmatic’s foundation, with “Street Dreams” and “If I Ruled the World” (the latter with Lauryn Hill) becoming radio staples and vaulting Nas into mainstream success. For his two 1999 albums, I Am… and Nastradamus, the rapper balanced commercial aspirations with extended metaphors and rough street anthems, carving out multiple identities that better reflected the rapper’s expanded worldview.

"My success symbolizes loyalty/Great friends/Dedication/Hard work/Routine builds character/In a world full of snakes, rats and scavengers" – Nas, "You Wouldn't Understand"

In 2001, the rapper released his fifth album Stillmatic at the height of his escalating battle with Jay-Z for King of New York. Tracks like “Ether” and “Got Ur Self A….”could be heard on radio stations and in cars across the country and would eventually sell more than 2 million copies, while songs like “Rewind,” which told the story of a payback hit in reverse a la Memento, solidified Nas as an atypical rapper unafraid to play with convention. God’s Son, with the booming anthem “Made You Look,” would follow one year later and go gold.

As Nas entered his 30s, his scope and breadth became even more ambitious. While most rappers struggle to say anything on one album, Nas released the 2004 double album Street’s Disciple, reuniting with his estranged father on the blues/hip-hop hybrid “Bridging the Gap.” The album also featured the Iron Butterfly-sampling “Thief’s Theme,” which remains one of Nas’ most anthemic songs.

In the past decade, Nas has only gotten more inflammatory and passionate, purposely titling albums to provoke weighty discussions on a global level. 2006’s Hip Hop is Dead sparked widespread debate on the veracity of the title, while Nas changed 2008’s Untitled from its original title Nigger, yet still incited intense polemics on race and politics in America.

"Reveal my life/You will forgive me/You will love me/Hate me/Judge me/Relate to me/Only a few will/This how it sounds when you too real/They think it's just music still" – Nas, "No Introduction"

In recent years, though, Nas has transcended mere rapper status and engaged in greater levels of philanthropy. The rapper is an avid UNICEF supporter, helping to raise funds for East African region Horn of Africa and teaming up with the family of George Harrison for the organization’s Month of Giving. The rapper also donated all proceeds of Distant Relatives, his 2010 collaboration with longtime friend Damian Marley, to help end poverty in Africa.

Nas’s desire for greater interaction with his fans has also led him to new business ventures. He serves on the board of social photo sharing site The Fancy alongside Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and has invested in Mass Appeal and RapGenius.com. Most recently, Nas announced plans to open 12AMRun – a sneaker store in Las Vegas.

The artist’s recent release was 2011’s Life Is Good, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, marking the sixth #1 album that Nas has produced in his career. The collection also received four GRAMMY nominations bringing the rap icon’s GRAMMY recognition count to 13 overall.

Nas’ seminal debut album, Illmatic, was released as a special 20th Anniversary Edition, titled Illmatic XX in Spring 2014 by SONY Legacy. In conjunction with the release, Time Is Illmatic – a feature length documentary film that examines the album – opened The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Rapper J-Live once said satirically, “To be a great MC, you have to be a great liar.” It’s safer to not tell the truth; safer to sanitize your existence; safer to align yourself with the producer du jour; safer to rhyme about tropes over truths. Nas’ catalog speaks for itself. Over 10 albums, the rapper has never been one to play it safe. Whether it’s rhyming about politics, hip hop, race, religion, other artists or personal relationships, Nas has consistently brought unparalleled and unprecedented levels of honesty to hip hop, a trait often overlooked in the genre. On Life is Good’s “Reach Out,” Nas rhymes, “So call me a genius/If you didn't/Now that I said it/I force you to think it.” For most artists, this would be arrogance bordering on hubris. For Nas, who’s remained vital and relevant for nearly 20 years, it’s just fact.

Method Man & Redman

Duo consisting of Wu-Tang Clan MC Method Man and Def Squad MC Redman. Together they released their 1999 hip hop album Blackout!. They also starred in a movie called How High in 2001 and appeared in Def Jam Vendetta, a fighting video game. This duo even had their own television sitcom on Fox called Method & Red during the 2004-2005 season.

Rapsody is a North Carolina emcee signed with super producer 9th Wonder for Jamla Records. With the release of seven projects in just three years and a critically acclaimed debut album in August of 2012, she is slowly establishing herself as a major player in today’s rap game.

In just a short time she has worked with some of the biggest legends and newcomers in the business, ranging from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Raekwon, Big Daddy Kane, Marsha Ambrosius, Mac Miller and Big K.R.I.T, to name a few.

Most recently, she was named one of the top female artist to know by both TIME Magazine and USA Today. She was also named one of the 20 Greatest Female Rappers of All Time by XXL. She most recently released a ten track EP titled Beauty and the Beast to much acclaim and she is currently working on her sophomore album.

In 2015, she was the only rap feature on Kendrick Lamar critically acclaimed album, To Pimp A Butterfly, on the song Complexion. The same year Dr. Dre announced on his Apple Beats1 radio show, The Pharmacy, that she was currently his favorite female emcee. A month later, she performed “Every Ghetto” with Talib Kweli on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Her style is polished and distinct, and her wordplay and flow are unparalleled in both delivery and execution. As she strives to contend with her Hip Hop predecessors, like Jay-Z and Mos Def, Rapsody is already undeniably one of the strongest and most promising forces in today’s Hip Hop culture.

If there was one R&B artist for whom the neo-soul categorization seemed limiting, it was Philadelphia native Bilal. None of his recordings resembled the sycophantic worship of soul artists who thrived in the '60 and '70s, and it wasn't just because his voice -- classically trained, capable of singing opera in seven languages -- was so unique. While some inspirations were detectable, his recordings were wholly modern and became increasingly creative. His individuality led to being dropped from a major label, and he went several years without releasing any solo material. Through evangelism from his peers and word of mouth from his early fans, Bilal gained an insatiable following and was supported by sympathetic independent labels, where he was finally able to thrive creatively.

Bilal Sayeed Oliver came up in Germantown, a northwest neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A deep interest in jazz was fostered by his father, who took him to the city's clubs. Singing eventually became more than an interest. He attended New York's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, where he received voice training, as well as training in jazz and big-band arrangements.

Grenique's Black Butterfly, a 1999 release on Motown, was the first major album to feature Bilal's vocals; he contributed to three songs. The following year, he established a deep connection to hip-hop by appearing on Common's Like Water for Chocolate and Guru's third Jazzmatazz album. These recordings led him into the Soulquarians, a rotating collective of collaborators who included Common, Jay Dee (aka J Dilla), the Roots' Ahmir Thompson, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Q-Tip, and Raphael Saadiq within its ranks.

A turbulent solo deal with Interscope resulted in Bilal's debut album, 1st Born Second. An exemplary neo-soul release featuring collaborations with Mike City, Robert Glasper, and many of the Soulquarians, it was issued in July 2001 and reached the Top Ten of Billboard's R&B albums chart. One of its three singles, "Soul Sista," peaked at number 18 on the R&B singles chart, while "Fast Lane" -- co-written with Damu and Faulu Mtume (the sons of James Mtume and two of the singer's earliest supporters) -- narrowly missed the Top 40. At that point, the closest points of comparison were D'Angelo and Maxwell, yet Bilal was more dynamic than the former and less mannered than the latter. 1st Born Second carried an energy that neither one of those singers, as hot as they were at the time, could boast.

Bilal recorded a second album, Love for Sale, and handled much of the songwriting and production duties, while Jay Dee, Dr. Dre, and Nottz assisted in limited capacities. Promo vinyl was pressed and the album leaked online, prompting Bilal's label to put it on ice. Bilal was subsequently dropped, but his following increased significantly. He must have had some mixed feelings when he performed the material to appreciative crowds who knew the material -- off a technically unreleased album -- inside out.

Meanwhile, nine years passed without a commercially released follow-up to 1st Born Second. Bilal had been a featured artist on songs by Beyoncé, Musiq, Clipse, Sa-Ra, Jay-Z, and several others, including many of his fellow Soulquarians, but it wasn't until 2010 that he released his second proper album. Airtight's Revenge was released on the Plug Research label and saw Bilal working extensively with Steve McKie, along with Sa-Ra's Shafiq Husayn (Bilal had appeared on Husayn's own Plug Research album, Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka), Nottz, Conley "Tone" Whitfield, 88-Keys, and several studio musicians who gave the set a loose, band-like feel. Its "Little One" was nominated for a 2011 Grammy in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category. In February 2013, after appearing on the Roots' Grammy-nominated Undun and Robert Glasper Experiment's Grammy-winning Black Radio, Bilal released A Love Surreal on eOne. Appearances on a typically diverse range of albums by the likes of Otis Brown III, Kimbra, Kat Dahlia, Kendrick Lamar, and Slum Village led to In Another Life, an album-length collaboration with producer and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Younge. Bilal's fifth commercially released set, it was issued in June 2015.

Phony Ppl either crash-landed from the past or the future: critics and fans can't decide. Since popping up on New York City's indie radar in 2011, the amorphous band has forged an entirely new sound built on vintage astral funk, colorful world music, and dusted-out hip-hop/R&B. Co-founded by writer/producer Elbee Thrie and keyboardist Aja Grant, the band flipped high school demo recordings into meditative self-released singles like "I Wish I Was A Chair" and "Statues," and tours with like-minded experimental elders Theophilus London, Erykah Badu and The Roots. Natives of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, the band has gained a global fanbase of early adopters including BBC6's Giles Peterson and Tokyo streetwear icon Skatething—not bad for a D.I.Y crew that produced and recorded much of their output from a Nostrand Avenue brownstone. Their latest effort, 2013's "53,000" was acclaimed by critics, fans and peers like Chance the Rapper and The Internet, and NPR's George Hahn called it "My favorite album right now… a rich, multi-layered and worthwhile listen." Currently prepping their proper debut album, the band maintains their youthful, imaginative sound while eyeing more mature production.

$60.00 - $250.00

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