“Look, she’s literally right there. Oh my gosh, I love her,” exclaimed Halle Bailey, of Chloe x Halle, while catching a glimpse of Erykah Badu entering NeueHouse Hollywood from the corner of her eye.
Her alert sparked a surge of excitement in her older sister Chloe Bailey, who said, “She is so pretty. Wow,” before they both sang lyrics to Badu’s hit “Tyrone.”
Although they weren’t even born when Badu released her first album in 1997, the sisters reminisced on a “Badu-ism” filled home during their diaper years as they celebrated the album’s 20th anniversary at Essence magazine’s eighth annual Black Women in Music event, which kicked off Grammy Awards weekend. Joining them were Solange Knowles, Janelle Monáe, Tiwa Savage, Estelle, Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans, Yara Shahidi, Serayah McNeill, Syd Tha Kyd, Bibi Bourelly and Chanté Adams, each of whom had their own indelible memories of Badu’s career to share.
“The whole album ‘Mama’s Gun’ got me through 19 through 20 years old,” Estelle said. “I was damn near homeless. I had to work two jobs and live in a hostel. That was the album that made me stay strong.”
Before introducing her mentor to the stage, Knowles recalled, “One night, in the very wee hours, I called Ms. Badu. I was in tears. Overwhelmed by all of the things that were expected of me after releasing my latest album. Out of all of the people I could have called, I called her. She told me a story, and I was at ease like the first time I heard ‘On and On.’”
Beyond the memories and hour-long performance, stars also relished Badu’s originality.
“Whether it’s her social media presence or her stage presence, she’s just so free,” Shahidi said. “She’s that hashtag carefree black woman. Whenever you look at her, there’s this feeling of, ‘That’s what we can be if we don’t limit ourselves.’”
McNeill echoed those sentiments, saying, “Seeing this woman being effortlessly herself, when she didn’t have straight hair, it wasn’t blonde, and she was still sexy and enticing — people loved her. I think those qualities about a woman in general, but especially a black woman, are so important.”