Presenting our interview with Erykah Badu, who stars in the most kickass photo from our Music Issue. In a chat with GQ’s Sean Fennessey, the soul goddess unveiled her unlikely inspiration Steve Harvey (!?), walked us through her childhood, and told us about her upcoming collaboration with Flying Lotus. Read the whole Q&A here. Below, Erykah on Steve Harvey and her #1 fan.
GQ: You were a rapper at one point, too. Was there a time when being an MC seemed more likely for you than being a singer?
Erykah Badu: That was back when I was in college. I went to [Grambling State] university from 1989 to ‘93 to study theater, so I was an actor at that point. It wasn’t my aspiration to be a singer, it was to be an artist. When I was 23 or 24, I was rapping and emceeing a lot with Free, but I was also working at Steve Harvey’s comedy house. He was my boss—the best boss ever. Funny, generous, considerate, and he knew I was an artist. When I started working there I was a waitress, and somehow I became a hostess. When he knew he could trust me, he moved me to the ticket booth. I handled money and helped organize transportation and hotel reservations for the comedians that came in. I noticed Steve didn’t have a stage manager, so I got that job, making sure everybody was taken care of. I love being of service to people—the whole act of it is really great to me. One day Steve was late going onstage, so I went out to the mic and threw out some jokes and stuff. People were laughing and heckling and having fun and Steve came onstage and scolded me in front of everybody. It was so funny. We started doing it every night. [Laughs] It felt like, This is where I want to be. Steve was really inspirational in that.
GQ: Did your mother encourage you being an artist?
Erykah Badu: Hell yeah. She’s my number-one fan, supporter, and everything. I don’t know nothing about failing as a result of what she says to me. “You’re gonna win. You’re the best. Don’t worry about it. You got it. You’re the dopest. They can’t fuck with you.” That’s her. All day. That’s, to me, an example of great parenting. Maybe we missed a couple things, some name-brand cookies, but I had everything.