365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

T-shirt #86 - Erykah Badu

T-shirt #86 - Erykah Badu

WARNING: This is a long one, and I am quoting liberally from source material, just so you know what you're getting into with this blog entry.

Erykah Badu has been a divine gift from the universe of love and grace. Corny to write, I know, but no less true.

Difficult as it is to select a number one, and though I could debate this categorization, I might have to position Erykah Badu as NUMBER ONE on a list of best performers and/or best concerts I have ever seen.

I saw Badu in 2007 and again in 2008.


I tried to find  a review of either of the shows I saw, but I was unsuccessful.  I did find a review from 2010 that does a pretty good job of capturing why Erykah Badu is so incredible.

"When Erykah Badu enters a room, you take notice" (Peters, 2010).

Review of the Chicago Theatre Show - 2010: Includes the set list.

But this review does not capture my experience. I was hoping to find someone who was able to eloquently describe why Erykah Badu is the most amazing musical performer I have ever seen.

Here's another: Erykah Badu at the Las Vegas Soul Fest 2013. This writer claims that Badu was worth the wait. Well, yeah. As the writer concluded, "you proved you earned diva status with your musical perfection." Sure. But this is not adequate.

The ERYKAH BADU FAN SITE is a great site for news and tour information.

BADUWORLD is a good portal for Badu's online presence.

This review from her 2012 appearance in Honolulu does a good job capturing the majesty and wonder that is a Badu concert.

In 2006, I secretly absconded to Chene Park (breaking with the companion with whom I usually attended shows from 2003-2009) to see India.Arie. I was blown away with the venue that sits right on the Detroit River, which provides a back drop to the stage. I was also enchanted by the audience. Detroit, Rock City, Motown's African-American community turned out to fill the ampitheatre for India.Arie. I counted. My friend and I were two of six white people in the audience. And this was great. Believe me, if you have not seen a show, a movie, a church service with a primarily African-American audience, then you have not lived life to its fullest. I always have the best time in such audiences. The warmth, fun, and love surrounding me is always much more beautiful and happy than a more mixed or primarily white crowd. Face it. White people are uptight.

I went back in 2007 to Chene Park to see Erykah Badu (again without telling my usual companion) with three friends this time (rather than one). There were more white people in the audience for Badu, though we white folks were still the minority, which is a nice turnabout experience for white folks. Badu was truly incredible. The way she interacts with the audience is very special. I have seen performers touch audience members, do trust falls (Peter Gabriel in 1982), and even take a microphone and walk down among the audience. Badu chose the latter, hugging her fans, kissing cheeks, touching people as if conveying blessings. The love between Badu and her audience formed a complex tapestry of tightly woven, swirling, shining, potent, beautiful energy. I have never experienced anything like it, and I am not sure I can put it into words. I was moved to tears, which I have only been one other time at a concert (T-shirt #12: Sigur Rós).

Badu is returning to Chene Park for a show this summer on August 4th, 2013. Trying to resist the desire to go see Badu in August at Chene Park as I already have many things scheduled. CONFLICT.

In 2008, I was able to see Erykah Badu again, this time with The Roots, with whom she worked back at the start of her career. A year later, she was promoting the release of her fifth (fourth studio) album, the first in five years (since 2003's Worldwide Underground): New Amerykah Part One (4th World War). Released in February, I had been able to listen to it repeatedly for three months.  According to the Wiki page for the album, it is described as "an esoteric concept album, New Amerykah Part One features social commentary and impersonal lyrics, with subject matter that includes poverty, urban violence, complacency, and cultural identity. It features dense, stylistically-varied music that incorporates funk, soul, and hip hop genres" (Wikipedia, 2013). The Associated Press named it as the best album for 2008. The Wiki page (see previous link) provides substantial content about the album's production and its lyrical content. It is definitely worth the read if you are interested in Badu.

If I was blown away by the 2007 Chene Park showed, I was blown away, rendered speechless, and in complete awe of the goddess and her 2008 Chicago show. I have seen many shows over the years, and I have had some concert experiences that transformed my consciousness (again see T-shirt #12: Sigur Rós). These two Badu shows definitely top the list.

Random aside: I cannot hear "Back in the Day(Puff)" from 2003's Worldwide Underground without thinking of my ring tone for texts, which I had set on my phone for about two years.

Also, here's some good Badu material:

Erykah Badu: I am hop hop: THE VIBE.


I love my Erykah Badu shirt, but I do not wear it often as I do not like the way it fits.

From the Wiki entry for New Amerykah Part One (4th World War about the second song from the album called "The Healer":
Produced by Madlib, "The Healer" is an ode to hip hop culture and a proclamation of its scope.[10] It opens with a brief snippet from a song by Malcolm McLaren featuring the World's Famous Supreme Team.[12] Music writer Piero Scaruffi describes the song's music as "trancey, exotic and brooding",[29] while Sasha Frere-Jones notes "bells, unidentifiable knocks, a lonesome instrument that might be a sitar, or a guitar, and lots of empty space" in the musical backdrop, adding that "the music flirts with total stasis, though it still has an audible beat."[12] Badu's lyrics, delivered in an incantation style,[11]make reference to various names of God, including Humdililah, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Jah, and Rastafari, while asserting hip hop to be "bigger than" social institutions such as religion and government.[12]She explained the lyrics and religious references, saying "to me, hip-hop is felt in all religions - it has a healing power. I've recently been to Palestine, Jerusalem, Africa and a bunch of other places, and everyone is listening to hip-hop. There's something about that kicking snare sound that all kinds of people find meaning in."[16]
I bought the shirt at the Chicago show in 2008. The lyrics and the song (see video that follows) communicate more than I possibly could with simple rhetoric.

"The Healer (Hip Hop)"

Humdi Lila Allah Jehova
Yahweh Dios Ma'ad Jah
Rastafara fyah dance, sex, music, hip-hop

It's bigger than religion
it's bigger than my niggas
it's bigger than the government
(humdi luli lali lulo)
This one fa' Dilla, hip-hop
(humdi luli la, humdi luli la lilulo, humdi lulila humdi lulilaaa...)


we ain't dead said the children don't believe it
We just made ourselves invisible
underwater, stove-top, blue flame scientist come out with your scales up
get baptized in the ocean of the hungry
(Humdi luli lalilulo, Humdi lulilalilu)
My niggas turn in to gods,
walls come tumblin...(aaahhh)

Humdi lila Allah jehova
yahweh dios ma had ja
Rastafara fyah dance, sex, music, hip-hop

It's bigger than religion
it's bigger than my niggas
it's bigger than the government
(humdi luli lali lulo)
This one is the healer, hip-hop

(humdi luli la, humdi lulilalilulo, humdi lulila, humdi lulilaaaa)

Told you we aint dead yet
we been livin' through your internet
you don't have to believe everything you think
we've been programmed wake up, we miss you.
they call you indigo, we call you Africa.
go get baptized in the ocean of the people
(Humdi luli lalulilo)
say reboot, refresh, restart.
fresh page, new day, o.g.'s, new key...

(humdi lulila, humdi lulila lilulo, humdi luli la, humdilulila)

I am not going to add too much of my text to this part. As you can see I have gone nuts with the pictures, lyrics, quotes from Wikipedia. I will let the song speak for itself.

Check out this live video for "The Healer" from Soul Stage uploaded April 2, 2008.



During my time teaching Media and the Sexes at WMU, I would feature a musical artist each week at the beginning of class.

Badu was one of my first featured musical artists, which included David Bowie, Brian Eno, Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, the Jam, the Pixies, MIA, Cocteau Twins, Stereolab, Kate Bush, Joy Division, The Clash, King Crimson, Kraftwerk, and Public Enemy.

Each semester I would play a bit from Badu's Live album in which she describes the meaning of the ankh and how these ideas are featured in her music.

"Y’all know what a cypher is? [“Yeah!”] It’s all kinds of ciphers. But a cypher can be represented by a circle, which consists of how many degrees? [“360!”] What? 360 degrees. And my cipher keeps moving like a rolling stone. So in my song when I say that, my cipher represents myself or the atoms in my body and the rolling stone represents the Earth. The atoms in the body rotate at the same rate on the same axis that the Earth rotates, giving us a direct connection with the place we call Earth; therefore, we can
call ourselves Earth. Okay? On my hand I wear an ankh. This is an ankh. An ankh is an ancient Kemetic symbol. The word Kemet is the original name for Egypt" (Badu).

I was just about to type out these words when I finally searched with the right search terms and found them here at Badu's Tumblr.

Fuck Yeah, Erykah Badu - Analog Girl in Digital World Tumblr


Badu stirred up a bit of controversy with her video for "Window Seat," which she released in March of 2010.



Controversy over "Window Seat" video[edit]

Badu in July 2008.
On March 13, 2010,[20] Badu filmed the video for her song "Window Seat", at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, which Badu wrote on her Twitter feed "was shotguerrilla style, no crew, 1 take, no closed set, no warning, 2 min., Downtown Dallas, then ran like hell."[21] Without acquiring permission or permits from the city, Badu shed her clothes as she walked along a Dallas, Texas, sidewalk until she was nude at the site where President Kennedy was assassinated. A shot rang out as the song ended, and Badu's head jerked back and she fell to the ground. Children with their families could be seen nearby as Badu stripped.[22] When asked about stripping nude in the presence of minors, Badu said, "I didn’t think about them until I saw them, and in my mind I tried to telepathically communicate my good intent to them. That’s all I could do, and I hoped they wouldn’t be traumatized."[20][23] Badu also explained on The Wanda Sykes Show on April 3, 2010, that it was not her intention to insult the memory of the late President Kennedy, saying "My point was grossly misunderstood all over America. JFK is one of my heroes, one of the nation's heroes. John F. Kennedy was a revolutionary; he was not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt-naked truth."[24] Coodie and Chike, directors of the Window Seat video, admitted they had bail money ready during filming, if Badu was to be arrested.[24]Badu said the video was a protest against “groupthink” and was inspired by Matt and Kim's music video Lessons Learned. Badu has also said she has "no regrets".[20]
On Friday, April 2, 2010, Badu was charged with disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor, in relation to the music video. "Sgt. Warren Mitchell said Friday the decision to cite Badu for disorderly conduct— a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 — came after witness Ida Espinosa, 32, of Vernon, offered a sworn statement to police Thursday [April 1]. Espinosa declined to comment to The Associated Press on Friday."[25] On April 28, 2010, Badu challenged the disorderly conduct charge by pleading not guilty rather than paying the fee by mail.[26][27] On Friday, August 13, she pleaded, deferred adjudication, meaning that the final judgment in the situation has been deferred until a later time and paid the $500 ticket.
One function of this blog is to write love letters.
This is my love letter to Erykah Badu.
From the very beginning of my time listening to Erykah Badu's music, I felt a strong sense of connection with her and her music. I felt correspondence. Her experiences and her life has been very different from mine, and yet, there are commonalities of experience as threaded through the Collective Unconscious. 
Not only did I feel this connection with Badu, I also felt that I was gaining so much from her music because of the ways in which her perspective is different from mine. She fills her music with interesting ideas and philosophical statements. Not only do I feel that Erykah Badu is a kindred spirit and that we share many views on life, love, and the universe, but I learn many new things from her the more I listen to her music and read about her ideas in interviews or as explained by others. I may not agree with Badu about everything. I am not going to mold my life based on hers in every way, but she makes me think, she inspires feelings and great respect. Badu lives deeply and with great love. I have unwavering respect for her work as an artist and a human being. She is an amazing person and woman. I understand her at some fundamental level, and yet, I do not understand her at all. I do not know how put it into words.
This connection with Badu, what I gain from Badu, the power of her emotionally rich, complex, cerebral music is deeply spiritual and ineffable. 
My life would have been so much poorer without Badu in it.
Thank you Erykah Badu.
BADU IMPACT Badu leaves me speechless.
So, you know that dinner party I mentioned in T-shirt #78: Suzanne Vega? Erykah Badu would definitely be there.

- chris tower - 1306.15 - 8:41