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Erykah Badu just lets the music flow

June 05, 2008|Steve Friess

ERYKAH BADU had song ideas bursting into her brain at such a pace she could barely keep up. If it weren't for her 8-year-old son, in fact, a lot of that material might have been lost.

"I was singing into my phone and recording things into the answering machine, and my son says, 'You don't have to do that, Ma,' " recalls Badu. "He says, 'All you have to do is blah blah blah with the computer. This is Garageband, and the jack is here, and click on this and write the lyrics and sing it.' And I go, 'OK.' "

The result of that out-of-the-mouths-of-babes moment is that the 37-year-old soul-jazz-R&B singer frequently likened to Billie Holiday is releasing three albums over a year, starting with February's "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)." Part 2 is due in July and a third, untitled album, comes out by early 2009.

That's quite a spree considering Badu hadn't had a full-length record out in eight years and had found herself touring constantly in an effort to ignore what she felt was a crushing writer's block. It turns out, she says, "it was actually a downloading period for me."

She also had a daughter, Puma, in 2004 with West Coast rapper the D.O.C., expanding a family that also includes her now 10-year-old son Seven, the product of her relationship with OutKast rapper Andre 3000.

Now a tour will bring her to the House of Blues Las Vegas on June 13 (and with the Roots at the Greek Theatre in L.A. next Thursday).

Badu has reentered a music business that has changed in the intervening years, and her first single, "Honey," didn't scale the charts as easily as such hits as "Tyrone" and "On and On" did in the late 1990s, when she became a Grammy-winning star.

To remedy that, Badu created a video for "Honey" that has become a YouTube sensation, in which a woman browsing a record store picks out classic albums from the racks, each of which features Badu on them in place of, say, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross or Paul McCartney.

"It's always music album covers that fascinate us," she says. "Because so many people who did not get to hear those records are collecting them now, I said, 'OK, let me pay some homage to the DJ and the record artist at the same time, because both things are dying.' "

As Badu heads out again to tour -- she says she'll reteam next year with Queen Latifah and Jill Scott for the third run of their Sugar Water Festival -- she says she's asked often why she put so much material out there so fast rather than publishing at a more leisurely pace.

"Some more will come," she insists. "The more you give, the more will come to you."

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theguide@latimes.com

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ERYKAH BADU

WHERE: House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas

WHEN: 8 p.m.

June 13

PRICE: $45 to $62

INFO:

(702) 632-7600

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