Badu Buzz

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Concurrent with the buzz of The Flaming Lips' video that features Erykah Badu singing her version of Roberta Flack's version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", was buzz generated this week about an old post of ours, in which Erykah virtually, publicly defends her family's honor against criticism about her children having different fathers. Much like the time surrounding her video for "Window Seat", from racist to sexist critiques, a thrilling video has proven a great buzz generator.

I don't care to concern myself much with the personal drama of people I don't know but, I do wonder, where are the voices of the fathers?

I'm reminded of an old, haunted Saul Williams song called "Our Father". It opens with a sermon by his preacher father about instructions, role models, and the important value of fatherhood in general. Then, conceptually evoking the father to begin with, he prays to our father: "in St. Frances Hospital for hypertension ... in jumpsuits and prisons, federal detention ... in dark bars and alleys, lethal injection ... in denial and delusion." He begins to praise one's name, "Hallowed be thy...", but is interrupted by himself in dark, bureaucratic monotone, "State your name for the record."

Being unable to get in tune is one of the great problems of our time. There will be no progress without struggle, as we know from Douglass. There will be no struggle without unity, as we know from Tubman. And nothing can be unified without good speech: good communication flowing and firing between synapses and hubs, as we know instinctively, and remember with the help of our scribes.

Unable to get in tune with his father, Saul turns to his goddess this time. "Dear goddess, we made this break beat just for you," he confides to her. "As an offering, can you hear us now? ... can you feel us now? ... can you heal us now?" Saul evolves the speech of the song from lecture, to prayer, to a desperate, spiritual offering of the broken beat to his motherly god.

Our good poets speak reality back to us. Amiri Baraka tells us this in our recent reading, his eulogy for the poet Louis Reyes Rivera.

Yet, after the recent in-depth profile story with D'Angelo was published, a feminist site popular in the cosmopolitan U.S. published a piece in which the author brushes aside his spiritual testimony and teases the singer, pointing to something that seems to amount to a special male privilege of being shocked by objectification that, hopefully, will be cured with more doses of feminist thought poured into the world. In both times that I've looked in the direction of this article, I've experienced only dissonance.

It took time for the snowballing buzz about kids and baby-daddies to lose its momentum, but there was one day last week when there was no buzz about that old, defensive post in which Erykah virtually, publicly defends her family's honor against criticism about her children having different fathers. I virtually asked aloud if anyone had heard of that old Saul Williams song. The next day there was only talk of that old Muhammad Ali photo where he's shadow boxing in a swimming pool.

The day after that, someone shared another old post of ours about Erykah: a two-hour long lecture at Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid.

Caution NSFW: The Flaming Lips / "Western Esotericism" f. Erykah Badu

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