- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Singer songwriter Erykah Badu may have two platinum albums and a hit single to her name, but she never designed it that way.

"I didn't have a plan 'cause I learned early on I was the plan," she says, "and I try and just follow my heart with every decision I make. Even when I write songs, I don't know exactly what's going to happen. But I usually end up teaching myself something at the end."

The mother of a 2-year-old son and sweetheart of OutKast rapper, Andre Benjamin, Miss Badu has jumped ahead of herself with her very first movie role in "The Cider House Rules."

In the film, Miss Badu plays the pivotal role of an itinerant worker's daughter whose life crisis affects all those around her.

Miss Badu, who grew up in Dallas, earned her first Grammy for her R&B; album, "Baduzim." Ever since her agent has been urging her to try acting.

But she was reluctant. She had a few other pressing things on her mind. Not only was she on a roll with two hit albums and a single, she was pregnant throughout her first major record tour. She had her son, Seven, two years ago and nursed him up to three weeks ago.

He's called Seven, she says, "because seven is a divine number. It can't be divided. And he's perfect. In divine mathematics 'G' (the seventh letter) symbolizes God, and he is a manifestation of God, an amazing creation to me."

Though she never conjured a specific plan, it was clear that entertainment would be her life ever since she was a little girl.

"I majored in theater for four years '89 to '93 … at Grambling [State University]. I went to the School of Arts in high school, Booker T. in Dallas, I danced, sang and acted there. As a child from 3 to high school I always did something that had to do with community theater or a church play or something. I've always been doing something," she says.

Though she nurtured the inclination, the realization took some time.

"After college I was working three jobs as a teacher, waitress and sang in clubs at night because I like it. I slept between the children and the cabaret," she says.

"My music is different from what R&B; is today. I did it for me and the artists around."

Miss Badu, 28, explains the difference between hip-hop and rap. "Hip-hop is something you live, rap is something you do," she says. "Rap is just a part of hip-hop … I'm not a rapper. I'm a hip-hop artist. That means I'm from a culture or an age where this is how we flourish. This is the food we feed each other in order to be artists."

She was performing at a club with her cousin when record company reps began to approach her about a recording contract. "About five different labels in 1995 wanted to sign me," she says.

Miss Badu is not surprised that she also harbors the ability to act. "Most singers are actors," she shrugs. "To be an entertainer, a big portion of our money comes from our live shows, and you have to have the ability a lot of times to entertain and [be] more than just singers. The younger kids who are singing now are entertainers not just singers and songwriters."

She was discovered in a club. "It happened all in one evening," she recalls. "It was overwhelming. I was happy 'cause I was tired of working even though I love kids a lot. I was, 'Oh, I just want to be in bed and not have to get up at 6 in the morning.' I always knew it would happen for me. I didn't know when or how."

She admits she was frightened when she finally agreed to audition for "The Cider House Rules."

"I was scared, nervous mixed with embarrassed, a little insecure because I've never done anything like this before as an artist. It was pretty heavy, too. I didn't have the chance to practice or get into it, or have my first time without everybody around."

The day of her first scene, she arrived late "as usual."

"They're looking at me like, 'This diva … ' I came in and sat down. I had to immediately jump into an emotional frenzy. It was weird to me.

"People who can just cry on cue have always been weird to me. But I did it. And afterward the whole room was quiet. And seconds later they clapped. By the end of the day, I was ready for another day."

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