It’s been five years since Erykah Badu released her fifth studio album New Amerykah Part Two (Return Of The Ankh), but she’s back with a new project that’s symbolic of 2015’s technological obsession while simultaneously serving as an ode to the past – her 1997 classic, “Tyrone.”
As an artist who’s thrived on being “ahead of her time,” But You Cain’t Use My Phone is a project indicative of a highly evolved Erykah who’s operating on yet another “frequency.”
Just days before the release of But You Cain’t Use My Phone and the airing of Centric’s 2015 Soul Train Awards, we managed to get the illustrious soul queen on the phone (the irony) to discuss the inspiration behind her new project, fostering creativity within her children, and of course, her friendship with Drake.
But You Cain’t Use My Phone will arrive on Friday, Nov. 27. The Erykah Badu-hosted Soul Train Awards will air on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. EST on Centric and BET.
Here’s our conversation with Erykah Badu.
But You Cain’t Use My Phone drops this Friday (November 27), do you still get anxiety about release dates?
I do get anxiety a little bit, but only on the creative side like when I have a lot of stuff to do. Other than that, I don’t get anxiety. I don’t go by deadlines. I go by the lifeline. Deadlines mess up my frequency a little bit, kind of like cell phones.
Are you a procrastinator?
Oh, yeah. I procrastinate mostly, but that’s when I create the best things. Procrastination is living.
The 2015 Soul Train Awards airs this Sunday, but isn’t this is your second time hosting the show?
Yeah, I hosted the awards back in 1998 with Heavy D and Patti LaBelle.
Oh, have you tried Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie yet?
I have not. I spent a little time with Patti the other day, but I haven’t tried it yet.
How does But You Cain’t Use My Phone represent Erykah Badu in 2015?
It’s me but on another frequency. I’m on another wave length. You heard me on the telephone, but now you can hear me on iChat. It’s the same thing, but I’ve re-calibrated and evolved myself along with the rest of the world.
You’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope. How do you deal with the world’s technology craze?
I feel like the world is almost catching up to my speed. That’s what I feel like.
But You Cain’t Use My Phone is inspired by one of your most popular song’s “Tyrone.” Can you believe that 20 years later people are still obsessed with the song?
It’s crazy yeah, but there was no way for me to predict how much people would love it. There was no way for me to know. I don’t take it for granted. Only the most high can make those kind of things happen, to make people commit to me in that kind of way.
You’re so self-assured and comfortable in your skin. What advice would you give young black women who are searching to capture that essence and find themselves?
I guess I would say it’s not a race. Take your time, feel each thing, stay in your lane, and when you get tired enough you will evolve.
Do you feel like you’re still discovering new things about yourself everyday?
Yeah, on the way absolutely, but I’m not on the path of self-discovery. I just be. I’m just here. What is happening is happening and is a result of what I think, and what I’ve written down, and what I desire.
Your son Seven’s been creating music. Not only has he helped you out, but he’s also been in the studio with Gwen Stefani. How do you foster creativity in your kids? Are you a “no rules” mom?
Absolutely! We have one rule: do what I say [laughs]. Everything else is wide open and we do what we want to. They watch me, and I’m honestly myself. I hope they find the things they love within themselves and are as forthcoming with them. I don’t want them to be little bitty me’s, but I teach and encourage them to eliminate things that no longer evolve them.
Do your kids have iPads, iPhones, and all the little tech gadgets?
How do you get them to put the phones down and disconnect?
Oh, they just have to when I say it’s time. When I tell them to do it, they do. They know what’s up. They try it sometimes, but I’m a stronger negotiator. In my house, it’s not a democracy it’s a dictatorship.
That must be tough too, especially with your oldest child, Seven, who’s 18. Were there ever moments when he was going through growing pains and wasn’t really feeling anything you had to say?
We never had that. He’s such a good kid.
Your one-woman show received so many great reviews. Are you thinking about taking it nationwide?
Yes, I’m taking it as far as it can go. I want to take it to TV – everything. My dream is to have a variety show. That’s what I want to do, and my one-woman show is my practice.
How do you juggle being a mother, recording music, hosting, and producing a variety show?
You know what? I just take it one moment at a time. I’m not worried about what I missed or what didn’t happen and I’m not worried about the future. The calendar will take care of that, but I do plan. I plan things out and when I write them down it’ll meet me half way. I can’t be prepared if I’m worried about all kinds of sh*t. In this interview right now, I’m right here with you. I’m not thinking about anything else, except you and me and what we’re talking about. It’s the best way to live. It’s being. We need to understand the concept of being.
There’s something so special about it. It’s in your breathing. I try to catch myself when I’m not just being. I regroup and refresh. That helps me a lot. I’m a multi-tasker. I can curse you out on Twitter. I can wash the dishes. I can build LEGOs with my six-year-old. I can help my son with Calculus. I can promote my album. I can do my daughter’s hair the way she wants it for school the next day, and I can do all of that at one time as long as I’m being.
Who are some new artists that excite you?
I like this group called Divine Council, it’s a young rap group that’s really creative. I love Young Thug, a lot. I’d like to see him evolve and grow. I like Odd Future and of course Frank Ocean. I’m waiting on Frank along with you and everybody else. I need me some Frank.
What kind of tea did you drink with Drake?
I don’t quite remember. It may have been lemon cinnamon. I just don’t remember.
Everyone was so jealous of Drake when we found out he was at your house, sipping tea, and talking sh*t. I feel like that’s everybody’s fantasy.
[laughs] He’s such a sweet guy. When he came to the house he brought me a Tempur-Pedic pillow and Tempur-Pedic house shoes.
That’s an unorthodox, but useful ass gift.
It was a great ass gift, and the kids fight over the “Drake pillow” all the time. I met Drake six years ago, and my son was having a sixth grade gathering at his school and I asked Drake if he would come to the school and speak. I didn’t even know him then. He’s one of Seven’s biggest influences in music, and he said yes. He talked to the kids and encouraged them for hours. I just flipped like, “wow, what a great soul.” He’s such an important part of music right now. Drake is a genre.