Erykah Badu’s steadfast pursuit of creativity and inspiration has been an ongoing challenge for the R&B songstress throughout the course of her career. The celebrated soul singer and mother of three recently extended her benevolent aspirations with Hennessy’s “Wild Rabbit” campaign.
During a recent interview with the Huffington Post, the Dallas native opened up on her second partnership with the luxury cognac brand, thoughts on a possible duet with Jay Electronica, and how she balances her career as a midwife.
What attracted you to become a brand ambassador for Hennessy’s “Wild Rabbit” campaign?
This is not my first time being involved in a Hennessy campaign. My first one was a couple of years ago, it was called “Hennessy Artistry: The Art Of Mixing.” It was where Hennessy had given artists [signed along with unsigned artists] a platform to express their art and music. And it was really cool. The Roots curated it and I thought that was a really good fit. Ahmir [Questlove] always does such a good job bringing in artists and doing a musical montage to keep a show going, and they asked me to do that this year. And I was more than pleased to do that. This year’s campaign is called “The Chase: Following Your Wild Rabbit.” It promotes never giving up, unshakably following the thing that guides you.
What would you consider to be your Wild Rabbit?
After they asked me to be a part of it they asked me what would my wild rabbit would be, and I didn’t have to think about it, I knew it would be my heart, making decisions in my life based on that. Including art and music, or love. And that’s why I’m involved, I get to put together some shows, speak to young people about their passion and their drives, never settling, and conquering their fears.
You also have a Hennessy cocktail that is inspired by you. Did you have any involvement in the creation?
That’s not my area. [Laughs] They are certain people who put those things together, because of course the object is to sell Hennessy. I wasn’t even aware that I had a drink until a couple of weeks ago. I don’t drink.
In terms of your performance sets, are you doing anything special or performing any new songs?
I’m doing a mixture. My shows are just going to be my shows; I didn’t do anything different or special for it. I think that’s one of the reasons why they choose me is because it’s going to be who I am in whatever venue that I’m in. Whether it’s new, or catalog, or impromptu.
Are you working on any new music projects or groups?
I just had a project come out called Rocket Juice and the Moon, with myself, Tony Allen [the drummer from Fela!], Flea [bass player from the Red Hot Chili Peppers], and Damon Albarn [from the Gorillaz]. I also have a group called The Cannabinoids, which consists of myself and eight other musicians on stage with me -- actually, they’re not musicians they’re producers. And we create music live on the spot. I created the group so it could keep me creative, and it also keeps me connected to my roots. All of the producers in the group are a part of my history. We have an album coming out in the last quarter of this year. My solo album also comes out in the last quarter.
Do you have a working title for your solo project?
I don’t have a title yet. That always comes last after I put the body of work together and sequenced it, found the right photos and artwork. Then usually the title comes to life.
On the album, can fans expect a collaboration between yourself and Jay Electronica?
Perhaps. We’ve done a lot of songs together, but sometimes you don’t like it or it doesn’t feel quite cohesive yet , but we’ve been working on it. We don’t have any plans, that kind of stuff just happens … He’ll have an idea and then I come in and put something down. And sometimes something comes, sometimes nothing ever comes. But we have a collection of those songs that we didn’t quite love.
With you being a midwife how do you balance your career between being an artist and providing care for expecting mothers?
That keeps me really, really busy because I never know when a mom is going to go into labor. So that means if I’m at a show and I get a page then I got to go. [Laughs] Or if I’m at the studio and I get a call then I have to go.
How do you factor that scheduling into touring across the country or overseas?
If I know that I’m going overseas, I usually know that a year in advance. I wouldn’t take a mother as a client until I get back. And I usually take two moms at a time. And we start generally around four or five months, and work throughout the pregnancy. And then after the baby is here we work up until when they feel they have a good grasp on being a mom.
Are you working on any philanthropic events?
I have a DJ camp coming up. This season is going to include DJing, teaching the history of Hip Hop, learning how to scratch with records. Learning how to DJ without Serato, and then learning how to work Serato. I think it’s important in my community because it’s a means of supplementary income to young people who are really interested in music. And we just wanted to offer that through my non-profit organization, B.L.I.N.D.