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A conversation with Erykah Badu

By DeEric Henry
On April 3, 2008

  • Erykah Badu. Darryl D. Smith
  • Erykah Badu. Darryl D. Smith
  • Erykah Badu

When many students arrive on the campus of Grambling State University, they begin to learn about it's history. The founders, the people who played significant roles in reshaping the schools image and, of course, the celebrities who attended.GSU has always been known as "the place where everybody is somebody,"' and for multiplatinum recording/performing artist Erykah Badu it wasn't any different.

The GSU alumna was the first to admit that Grambling wasn't the original choice of schools for her. "I wanted to attend Howard, but my grades weren't good enough," she said with the softness in her voice that has been identified with her since releasing her first album Baduizm.

Though eager to further her education, Badu did what was best for her at the time. She packed her bags, got in a Chevy Spectrum with her cousin and traveled to the piney woods of Grambling.

Badu says she remembers the registration process the most. "There was a table where students could sign up for a Discover card," says Badu, which she admits did nothing to enhance her credit score.

Originally, she majored in quantum physics and quickly switched over to theater. "I auditioned for several plays while at GSU at the Floyd L. Sandle Theatre," she said.

Although busy with acting, she still found time to express herself through the arts on campus. "I danced with the Orchesis and was involved in a rap group called "CP Posse," which stands for Cultural Production."

Though her love for the arts was what caught most of her attention while matriculating at GSU, she always found time to do community work. "I was an activist, and I stood up for student rights," she said.

Badu admits when you make friends in college .you end up having friends for life. "I lived in the 'village' in a seven-bedroom house.. I owned a bookstore three doors down from Tasty's Chicken," she said as if it were yesterday, admitting that Tasty's Chicken was salty. Most of her close friends attended GSU, and she makes a point to stay in communication with them on a consistent basis.

Although she didn't complete her degree at GSU, in 1997 she released her first album, Baduizm It went triple platinum and solidified her stance in the music industry.

Trying to keep her connection to her Grambling tradition, Badu attended GSU's Homecoming festivities after releasing her album. She says she thinks all the time about coming back to attend Homecoming for the fun of it, but admits there are challenges. "It's a task because so many people want autographs," she says.

Nonetheless, in 2003 Badu came to Grambling and performed several song from her albums. As for if she's coming back to GSU for a concert, Badu says, "I'll write it in my tour ... it begins in June of this year." She notes that the next concert she gives at GSU, she wants every student to be able to get in.

But with being a star, there are always people who say a person has changed. Badu says some people do feel she has changed, but she begs to differ. "On second thought, I'm 37. I would hope that I have changed," she said.


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