Erykah Badu, whose name at birth was Erica Abi Wright, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas.
Badu is an adherent of the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE), or the Five Percent Nation. Her language and lyrics are laced with Five Percent imagery. Her song “On and On” is particularly heavy on references. Referring to the tenet that god lives in the individual, specifically the black individual, Badu sings,
If we were made in his image/ Then call us by our names/ Most intellects do not believe in god/ But they fear us just the same
In one video, she recommends a book about the history of the Five Percent Nation by saying,
I want to recommend some reading for everyone who wants to expand in some kind of way their consciousness.
But for Badu, the NGE is not a religion so much as a worldview. Her relationship with the spiritual world seems to be more personal than the constructs of any particular religion can provide. She said,
Personally, I don’t choose any particular religion or symbol or group of words or teachings to define me. That’s between me and the most high. You know, my higher self. The Creator.
And although she’s angered some religious folks from time to time, including the entire country of Malaysia, she said she’s much more interested in bringing people of different religious beliefs together than she’s concerned with what divides them. I guess no matter what your intention, you’re going to piss off somebody.
Erykah Badu doesn’t vote. You might assume that would mean she’s non-political, but it doesn’t. (She chose not to explain her absence from the voting booth, saying it’s “for many reasons, that I’d rather not say on tape.”) She feels very connected to her country in the grand sense. Talking about her album, Amerykah, she said,
I’m so much part of what that country is. I’m a product of its teaching, of its thinking, of its isms, of its religion, of its education. I am conditioned, raised and developed by America; I ,am, America.
She doesn’t seem to get involved in specific issues like gay marriage, gun control, or immigration, but rather in the big picture concepts of freedom, equality, and unity. She supported the Millions More Movement, which was a largely failed attempt to organize a civil rights march on Washington. And when asked if she is a feminist, she responded that she is a humanist. She sees Obama in big picture terms as well. She said about the president:
He has changed the face of what we can be as a nation. . . . He made us get involved, and I think that’s a major, major step for a lot of people of color, and for a lot of poor people.
She clearly has a liberal worldview, which she summed up in one interview. About what’s wrong with her country, and how it needs to change she said,
The most damaging division in our country was that of black and white, rich and poor. . . . We need to embrace each other with more compassion, with a more loving response.