Tag Archives: Erykah Badu

A Look Back at The Soulquarians

With The Roots’ 13th album, undun, in stores today, I figured this was as good time as any for this post….

I’ve been familiar with the Soulquarians for a minute now, as many others have been, I know. For those who aren’t, need a refresher, or just enjoy seeing so many brilliant names listed in succession, the collective consisted of: ?uestlove, J Dilla, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Bilal, James Poyser, Q-Tip, Mos Def, Common and Talib Kweli. A who’s who of the top MCs, producers, musicians, singers and composers in Black music, and American music, in general, in the past 30 years or so, that came together to make some of the best art hip-hop and R&B have ever seen — or heard, for that matter.

Taking cues from their “Yodas” — Jimi Hendrix, Al Green, James Brown, George Clinton, Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Fela Kuti and Prince — the music these brothers and sisters went on to create during that period was innovative and progressive on every level, from production to performance. Spending countless hours and numerous years at Hendrix’s famed Electric Ladyland Studios in New York, from the late 90s to the early 2000s, musically, they could do no wrong — until the end.

The period begins on February 23, 1999, with The Roots’ Things Fall Apart. The album, considered by many to be their best — it is certainly  their most well-rounded and the one that granted them mainstream and widespread notoriety, along with their first Grammy.

Next up arriving on January 25, 2000, was D’Angelo’s Voodoo, around which much of this entire amalgamation takes place. This is one of my 5 favorite albums of all time, and, in my opinion, the best of the Soulquarians’ offerings.

3 months later on March 28, comes Common’s premiere piece, Like Water For Chocolate, produced in majority by the late, great Dilla. November 21 of that same year, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, featuring standout cuts like the Dilla-produced “Didn’t Cha Know”, and the  top-10 hit “Bag Lady”.

July 17, 2001 we get Bilal’s 1st Born Second (catching him in concert and seeing him murder Double Door with a two-hour set a few weeks back is what truly set off this Soulquarian splurge). Phrenology hits November 26, 2002 and the next month, on December 10 is Common’s Electric Circus, whose chaos, in retrospect, clearly signaled the end of the era, as the collective’s creativity had been exhausted for the moment.

Even in spite, we’re looking at two platinum records (Voodoo and Mama’s Gun), three gold records (Things Fall Apart, Like Water For Chocolate and Phrenology) and some of the best bodies of work in hip-hop and R&B of all time, in a 3-year period! All had a tribal, spiritual undertone to them, and most consistent throughout was Quest as the drummer. In addition, many featured Soulquarian affiliates Roy Hargrove, Raphael Saadiq and Pino Palladino, as well.

Greg Kot, of the Chicago Tribune, summed it up quite well: Though the music is not easily categorized, making radio airplay difficult, that lack of stylistic definition is also why it feels so fresh. “In essence, I don’t think rap and R&B are different,” D’Angelo says. “Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies was a pioneer of funk, which is a foundation of hip-hop. They’ve always tried to separate the genres, but the basis of my album was to bridge these worlds. All of these genres come from the same source: blues or gospel.”

The “R&B”, then, was tough and edgy, while the “rap” was soulful and insightful. And there was a dash of spirituality underlying all of it. All of it ignored the current commercial standards and pushed the bounds of hip-hop and R&B as they had been previously known. ?uestlove called the movement a, “left-of-center Black music renaissance”. Sounds about right, to me.


Erykah Badu – Kiss Me On My Neck; Mama’s Gun

Producer: J Dilla

Erykah Badu – Back In The Day (Puff); Worldwide Underground

Producer: Erykah Badu, James Poyser, Ringo Smith

Eddie Kendricks – Intimate Friends; Slick

This has been superbly sampled a couple times — Alicia Keys’ “Unbreakable” and Erykah Badu’s “Fall In Love (Your Funeral)“.


Went back to this KRIT tape today and I’m glad I did…

Big K.R.I.T. – Highs And Lows; Return Of 4Eva [Link]

Producer: Big K.R.I.T.

Interpolates: Bootsy Collins – I’d Rather Be With You [Link]

Big K.R.I.T. – King’s Blues; Return Of 4Eva [Link]

Producer: Big K.R.I.T.

Sample: Erykah Badu – Time’s A Wastin’ [Link]

Salute To 9th Wonder: Reflections On “The Wonder Year” & My Favorite Productions

Got a chance to see a screening of 9th Wonder’s documentary, “The Wonder Year”, yesterday, and must say it was excellent. Director Kenneth Price does a great job of chronicling 9th’s life, from childhood through the present day. Already one of my favorite producers, he escalated even further up the list — nothing like seeing someone craft a beat from scratch, especially when they’re employing incredible soul samples.

He spoke extensively on his new album, years-in-the-making, The Wonder Years, as well. Check this:

“The album is basically explaining the different types of music that I love. From the song ‘One Night,’ with Terrace Martin and Phonte, that sounds like a Gap [Band], Cameo, S.O.S. Band, Loose Ends song all rolled into one. My brother is 48, that’s a tribute to my brother. That’s his music. ‘No Pretending’ with Raekwon is my love for Wu-Tang Clan. The song with Holly Weerd and my artist Tom Hardy is my love for Atlanta — that period when Outkast was between ATLiens and Aquemini, that’s what that song is to me. ’20 Feet Tall’ and the Marsha Ambrosious, ‘Peanut Butter & Jelly’ song, is my love for hip-hop soul, my love for Mary J. Blige-type soul. So that’s the album. It just explains all the types of different genres of Black music that I love. Every track.”

Church. His knowledge of Black and American history, and Black music are also major reasons why I have a respect for 9th that extends far beyond the scope of hip-hop. While we often talk about doing things for the culture, it’s too frequently nothing but mere lip service. That’s certainly not the case here, as 9th has brought hip-hop into the academy, teaching courses at North Carolina Central (Hip-Hop and Context) and Duke (Sampling Soul).

One thing that’s clear about 9th is that he 100 percent about the culture, and an avid fan and connoisseur of music, hip-hop, R&B and soul, especially. Of course, that’s what we’re all about here at Love, Hip-Hop and Soul. As a lover of great music, hearing him DJ for two hours last night was an unbelievable treat.

The man has production credits for everyone from Jay-Z to Destiny’s Child to Murs, a list that literally spans nationwide. And it’s all done on Fruity Loops, a point that was hammered home in the film. Thus, below are my five favorite 9th Wonder-produced tracks (right now). Obviously, there’s hundreds of other I could have chosen, and, honestly, hundreds that I’m still yet to hear…

Erykah Badu – Honey; New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

Sample: Nancy Wilson – I’m In Love [Link]

David Banner – Slow Down; Death Of A Pop Star

Sample: The Whispers – On Impact [Link]

Ludacris Feat. Common & Spike Lee – Do The Right Thing; Theater Of The Mind

Sample: Arthur Verocai – Na Boca do Sol [Link]

Drake Feat. Phonte & Elzhi – Think Good Thoughts; Comeback Season

Sample: Anita Baker – Sweet Love [Link]

Little Brother – Lovin’ It; The Minstrel Show

Sample: The Stylistics – One Night Affair [Link]

Erykah Badu – Fall In Love (Your Funeral); New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh [Link]

Prodcuer: Badu & Kariem Riggins

Sample: Eddie Kendricks – Intimate Friends [Link]