There comes a time when a song you’ve listened to a hundred times, all of a sudden sounds like you never heard it before. The 101st time sounds familiar because you finally experienced what the lyrics describe. Not only can you relate, you’re also impressed with how well the artist explains everything. Although there was a delay in how profoundly the lyrics would resonate with you, the story was yours before you knew it.
This is my relationship with songs by Erykah Badu. From falling in and out of love; to acceptance, forgiveness, and growth; to revolution, I am her kindred listener.
As I share some of the moments and songs that led me to adjust my play settings to repeat, keep in mind that I’m a Pisces, and I’m sensitive about my shit!
“Feeling insecure/ Love has got me sore/ I don’t want no more…” — Green Eyes
I remember the moment I realized that the inconvenience of being a giver was not in giving, but that doing anything else would be unnatural to me. What I hadn’t figured out however, was my next move. I was too confused to be heart-broken just yet, because logistics took precedent over licking my wounds. I only knew I needed to leave. I was completely unsure about where to go or when I would get a job.
Thankfully (and sooner rather than later), I started working, and I began the process of healing with “Green Eyes,” every day while riding DC’s Orange line to work.
“Your energy feels so damn good to me/ It picks me up don’t want to come down/ You got me spinning all around…” — Next Lifetime
It took me much longer than most folks my age to figure out how difficult it is to be matched with someone at the right time in both our lives. I was a very late bloomer. Growing up, I paid no attention to boys; I only cared about school, and more school (going to college). Similarly, boys paid no attention to me. So…adolescence worked out perfectly!
Before I knew it I was grown. I was feeling myself, and others, especially those who barely noticed me back in the day, were feeling me too! But attraction, as we all know, is never enough. Compatibility, similar interests and priorities in life, while also being available to explore what intrigues you about another person, matter a great deal.
But what if you’re “taken?” To make sure no one gets hurt or feels misled, you have to maintain boundaries while satisfying your curiosity about someone other than your partner. The most you can do is confess your interest, and vibe harmlessly on the same frequency for just enough time for it to feel good, but not long enough to reconsider your relationship altogether (although I don’t always think this is a bad idea, either). It’s innocent yet arbitrary. You have to choose between being disciplined about your commitment, or conflicted about your curiosity. You choose to be disciplined, and in the name of being true to your feelings, this is a worthy juggling act.
You make it out with your commitment intact but you both find solace in knowing energy never dies, it only transfers. You keep each other’s secret…until the next lifetime when you promise to resume this organic and bomb ass idyll (because you won’t stand to miss this twice!).
One day he ‘gon say you crowding my space/ So, pack light/ Let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go…” — Bag Lady
So, I won’t even front — the first time I heard Bag Lady, I was incapable of understanding its cryptic, yet simple message. I could only associate the beat with the earlier release of “Xxplosive” on Dr. Dre’s 2001. It wasn’t until I felt the need to apologize years later to a guy who attempted to court me while I was still healing from “Green Eyes,” that I realized I “crowded his space” with my emotional baggage.
The process wasn’t out of my system yet and embarrassingly obvious (to only him at the time). I felt silly about this for a while, until I remembered to be gentle with myself and “pack light.” Because closure isn’t a “Next Lifetime” kind of thing, I reached out to apologize as soon as I had a way; and thankfully, he understood. How awesome is he?!
“Where you going, where you going baby what’s the rush?/ You got me feeling like a girl with a fiendish crush/ When you go where you’re going boy I miss you much/ But I know you got to get your hustle on…” — Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long
While listening to “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long, other songs like “Other Side of the Game,” “Danger,” “Think Twice,” and “I Want You” illuminated an album-by-album sequence of affairs with “articulate thug types.” Had you told me the day before I met my “articulate thug type” that I’d entertain his company, or even grow to love him, I would have laughed and insisted, “you don’t know me.” But the universe laughed harder and knows me better than I know myself.
I wasn’t used to hustlers; everyone before him received a W-2 at the end of the year. This wasn’t an easy adjustment. I learned the demands of his “complex occupation” through missing him so much. I learned to wait, and wait…and wait. I was important, but I wasn’t money. I’d been struck by a smooth criminal and the lure of the hustler was finally demystified. I admired his beauty, humor, intelligence, resilience, and his masterful dexterity between ruthless and sensitive; rough and gentle; rambunctious and attentive. He was witty with a smile as nice as mine, and good manners. He looked at me like I was magic.
I’d warn other women but I don’t want to keep this experience to myself. Instead I’ll advise that when an articulate thug type approaches, get ready for that whip appeal.
You need to watch the dirty cop/ Them the one you need to watch…” — Soldier
I actualized one of my more recent Baduizms while inconveniently far away from home. I was worried about my brothers’ safety more than my own until I remembered, being a Black woman didn’t mean I was less likely to be murdered by the senseless and bigoted police brutality experienced by Black men and women in America.
Is it even “brutality” anymore if we’re being murdered? I cried…and cried!
I wondered if calling my brother (or all of my brothers) while crying would have been too dramatic. Still, like many concerned Black women, I was more worried for their safety than my own. Still, I was in a cloud of respectability politics thinking that “not looking suspicious” would save me. I didn’t dare leave my room in my temporary home away from home. I just continued to cry, and eventually, was comforted by strangers with a limited ability to communicate in English who rivaled my grief with the universal language of love, affection, and plenty of tissues!
What’s worse? I knew there would be no justice, and presumably, just another hashtag. I knew people would work hard to misconstrue and disregard our collective trauma. I knew we would be ignored because we’re Black.
“Soldier,” released years before #BlackLivesMatter, warned us about crooked cops, and worse, apathy to the injustices experienced by Black people. Of all the moments I listened to a song by Erykah Badu to gain understanding about the world and my life experiences, I wish the constant assault on Black lives was not one of them.