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Erykah Badu: VOGUE Captures the Neo-Soul Songstress

The March 2023 issue of Vogue is as much a reflection on Erykah Badu's present sense of self as it is a homage to her style that has always been ahead of its time.

The Dallas native's album Baduizm has been hailed as the best soul album of the '90s. Its suede-like superlative sounds were accentuated by existential philosophical musings and lyrics that hummed between a love song to the self and to significant others. Along with Meshell Ndegeocello, D'Angelo, Maxwell and Jill Scott, Badu heralded a style of R&B that was about Black Love and emancipation, that told stories as much as it relished the act of feeling.

Part of Badu's style was the sweet simplicity of the music coupled with signature additions such as the rim shot, a drum technique where a musician strikes the metal edge while simultaneously hitting the head of a snare to create a kind of musical spark. Badu's style had that same kind of nuanced spark that resonated without being bombastic or supercharged. She entered the music scene wearing hair wraps as colorful as plumage and Rastafarian prints, moving on to oversized hats, bright yellow gowns, loose overalls, strands of chunky beads, and layers upon layers of patterned fabric that was a prelude to the vintage looks that would soon stalk the runways.

She was always full of surprises. For the Met Gala 2021, she startled onlookers with a black and white motif created by a sweeping, dramatic overcoat, two hats that gave off a decidedly Dickensian ambiance, and stiletto boots with razored points. The paradoxical looks emitted a comfy but elegant vibe, as if she was bound for the opera once the afterparty became dull.

In the Vogue article by Chioma Nnadi, Badu's past and present, along with her idiosyncrasies and bohemian glory is summed up in the intro which states that Badu "likes to wear clothes that make music when she walks." Despite her crystal amethyst pendants and the gentle clarion call of the bells around her ankles, to call her style 'hippie' or 'laid-back' does it a disservice. There is nothing that casual or nonchalant about a person with Badu's kind of intense and staggering genius, all of which comes through in the Vogue layout, where every image tells its own story.

The mother-daughter narrative sweetly comes through as Erykah poses with her daughter, Puma.

Thinking of sounds, Erykah remembers, "I grew up listening to these trucks and cars pass by...the vibration is familiar, soothing, like wind chimes." Below she wears a forest-green John Galliano coat and Hailey Desjardins custom hat that has the whimsy of a newspaper hat that could magically become anything else on the planet.

In a look that is desert futurism, Badu wears a Hermès dress paired with a custom hat designed by Hailey Desjardins and inspired by the “monozukuri” conceptualization of Issey Miyake.

Her natural eclecticism is apparent in the Marni x Erykah Badu dress and matching shawl.

Here the songstress wears a Yohji Yamamoto dress and hat.

Marni x Erykah Badu shawl.

Photos courtesy of VOGUE, Photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth

~ By Erin Moonyeen Haley


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