Petrified, nervous, insecure, scared … None of these are words fans of Erykah Badu would associate with the neo-soul songstress, whose captivating musical stylings seem unflappable and effortless.
But they’re all various ways Badu describes her experience making Re:Generation, a fascinating new Grammys-produced music doc that pits five producers (Mark Ronson, DJ Premier, Skrillex, Pretty Lights and The Crystal Method) with the task of dabbling in five extrinsic genres (jazz, classical, rock, country and soul, respectively).
Badu, along with Mos Def, Trombone Shorty, Zigaboo and more, were recruited for Ronson’s jazz squad, where they had just hours to conceive a track for a performance that night. The celebrated crooner gives us a candid take on her “Re:Generation” encounter, delayed acting career and more.
So how did you get involved in “Re:Generation”?
And you had met Mark Ronson before, but you guys had never collaborated on anything before?
Out of all the producers in the movie, Mark seems like he landed most in his element, getting the jazz genre. How do you think you guys would have fared in a more disparate genre, something like country?
Probably the same way. We would have brought the best out of one another, I think. I was petrified, of course, because we only had three hours to write the song, and had to perform it that same night. I was a little nervous, and I wanted it to be good. I didn’t want to let my peers down. This was an opportunity for them to see how funky I am … I just had to kind of take my time, and I guess the main word that I would use for this experience is “surrendering.”
Did you know that you were going to be working within that genre, or was that a complete surprise?
Did you have any reservations about pulling the curtain back and letting folks bear witness to your creative process?
So there had to be a lot of bonding among the group through this process.
There was a little bit of drama in the other collaborations, but it seems like for the most part, your guys’ process went very smoothly.
That’s an amazing marriage. And there was a time when we were rehearsing where we all became one living, breathing organism, and nobody said anything. And we were just all playing, locked in. I had a tambourine, and I was locked in with Zig. Mark was locked in on the rhythm guitar. It was what music is supposed to make you feel. I wanted it to be like this forever. So my process of writing is forever changed as a result because I detest deadlines because I write from my heart. It’s there before me and [here] I was glad to have one because it challenged me to see most of my feelings, to bring them up on queue … and I never knew that. I always made it complicated and a struggle, but I thought that’s where it came from, out of my struggle. But this time it didn’t. It came out of pure surrender.
This isn’t your first time appearing in a music documentary. Can you please ask Dave Chappelle to do another Block Party?
Thank you. You were really impressive in the movies House of D and Cider House Rules. Why haven’t you acted in so long?
Just because I haven’t really been interested in it. Music is a very free, non-time-consuming mental work, free mental work. I have three children, they come first. I choose to live in Dallas, Texas, and they ain’t shooting any movies out there. And my kids are in the age now where they need help with their homework, and grooming and fashion and stuff. I think that’s more important, the upbringing. So I put [acting] on hold. I’ve got plenty of time, though, I just started. Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet, it’s the beginning.
So it’s something you think you’ll go back to?
Do you have a dream role that you’d come back to acting for?
Somebody definitely needs to write that.
All right. It’s going on the To Do list. Are you a movie buff?
So what’s next for you on the music front?
And I just did two songs with The Flaming Lips, we did a project together. Also, I did a song with Robert Glasper. I’m working on my own album which comes out at the end of the year, fourth quarter. And I’m gonna start working on this other project I can’t tell you about. It’ll definitely give you a hard-on, I promise. If you love music.
So you don’t have much going on at all, huh?
This piece originally ran on NextMovie.com. Republished with permission.