Erykah Badu has gone to great lengths to explain why she named her latest tour Unfollow Me. During an interview with VIBE, she said, “We’re all on an individual journey, we’re finding our way. So following me wouldn’t really benefit you on your journey.” And it was clear during her Saturday night show at Madison Square Garden that Badu isn’t lost at all. She’s simply allowing her path to unravel before her.
Unfollow Me is a curated experience that functions as a spiritual awakening not just for the audience but for Badu herself. (Joining Badu is yasiin bey, as well as Tobe Nwigwe and Durand Bernarr on selected dates.) The show featured images evoking afro-centric and psychedelic symbolism matched with tribal chants and echoes of sound bowls and rain that could be heard throughout the arena.
Badu and her “baduizms”
Erykah has become a representation of neo-soul. But, more importantly, she’’s also become a signature piece of the aesthetic often associated with spirituality within the Black community. From her signature headwraps, afro, attire consisting of lengthy skirts, incense, and “baduizms,” Erykah has been a goddess whose praise as an artist has turned into borderline worship.
During a Zoom call with reporters last week, Badu was asked if the constant worship is frustrating; she shook her head with confidence, saying: “No, because I made that album for the ‘90s babies,” adding that she was pregnant with her son Seven while making Baduizm. She further emphasized the point during the show, stating to the millennials in the audience “I’ve been waiting for you to grow the fuck up so we can talk about it.”
Photo Credit: Tony Krash
Playing the classics
Through her roughly 20 song setlist, Badu used specific tracks from her discography to communicate with the “‘90s babies” who are now forging paths of their own through her guidance and wisdom. From performing iconic singles such as “On & On” and “Window Seat” to fan-favorite album cuts like “Kiss Me On My Neck” and “Time’s A Wastin,’” Badu’s deliberate inclusion of songs mostly from Mama’s Gun and Baduizm was the perfect example of her wisdom on solitude, spiritual evolution, and love. And with hip-hop turning 50 next month and New York City being the birthplace of rap music, Erykah made sure to pay homage with a performance of “Love Of My Life” that featured a mashup of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Over the course of the hour and half we spent together, it became increasingly clear that the show was meant to inspire us to allow our individual paths — opposed to following directly in Erykah’s footsteps. This tour was for Badu. And it included moments where she was freestyling on stage with funny puns and jokes about “riding a missile from Korea for the dick” and singing along to Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None).” The show ended with an emotional performance of “Didn’t Cha Know” and “If You Believe” from The Wiz. The evening displayed how the Unfollow Me tour is Badu’s way of deplatforming herself and elevating the sagacious relationship between her music and the discernment of her fans. Take what applies from the music and leave the rest behind.
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