Erykah Badu Is Dallas’ Greatest Treasure And She Proved It Again At Her Bomb Factory Birthday Bash On Friday Night.

Every now and then, I meet someone who doesn’t know who Erykah Badu is. It doesn’t happen all the time, I concede, but it does happen — and probably more frequently than you might think.

Hey, I get it: This is a fast-paced, rather dense world that we live in, and it’s nigh impossible to keep up with everything that goes on within it. Nope, you really can’t know it all. And, by extension, you can’t know everyone, either. So, for some among us, this means that someone even as vital to R&B music at large and as important to a local community as Badu is to Dallas can sometimes get glossed over — or, in other cases, see her grandeur just vastly underestimated.

And, man, do I feel sorry for these people. Because, as was once again made abundantly clear on Friday night at the Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum, Badu is an absolute treasure — Dallas’ greatest, I’d say.

We knew heading into Friday’s show that it would be a celebratory affair, one honoring the Queen of Neo-Soul on her 45th birthday and featuring at least one of her famous friends. We knew too, given the fact that she’d already done it once before here, that Badu would likely bring the house down with a fiery performance. In fact, the bulk of what happened on Saturday was fairly predictable to anyone familiar with Badu.

But here’s the thing: It didn’t make it any less great. And that‘s Badu’s real power. Well, that and her immense, well-documented allure.

The latter is why once-in-a-generation comedian Dave Chappelle was on hand to host the night’s festivities, to refer to Badu as his good friend who he “genuinely love[s]” and to, at night’s end, cover both Radiohead’s “Creep” and Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” with Badu and her backing band playing along and egging him on.

It’s why Freeway Rick Ross — the rather notorious guy the rapper of the same name modeled him image after — was in the building to pay his respects.

It’s why one of the greatest rappers and musicians of all time, Outkast’s Andre 3000, was on hand to show love and support for his former flame — right alongside their offspring (and collaborator) Seven and Erykah’s mother, for whom “Ms. Jackson’ was penned — and to join some 100 others on stage in presenting Badu with a record-shaped cake before singing ‘Happy Birthday” to her.

It’s why the slew of up-and-coming performers tapped to open the bill — including locals such as But You Caint Use My Phone producer Zach Witness, the Cameron McCloud-featuring rap-rock outfit Cure For Paranoia, rapper -topic and DJ Sheka Booker, plus the Badu-managed Atlanta rapper ItsRoutine — looked like their feet never touched the ground once over the course of the night.

It’s also why Badu can singularly enlist a crew of performers as individually accomplished as the members of her The Cannabinoids to back her as they did for almost two hours on this night.

Because we’ve seen this kind of birthday revelry from Badu before (albeit with less star power), it’s perhaps a little too easy to take these seemingly once-in-a-lifetime affairs that Badu regularly bestows upon her local subjects — right around 5,000 of them on this night — for granted.

Of course, not doing so is one of the many lessons Badu teaches us — right along with remembering to dance with the ones that brung you. Fun as one imagines such events are for the Queen herself, it’s obvious during them that they’re also meant to serve as thank yous to the people who’ve supported her along the way, which is why, early on in her set, she called out Cannabinoid member Rob Free and shared with her fans the story of how he encouraged her to sing over a beat he had called “Apple Tree,” and how that encouragement from her continued collaborator kick-started her entire career.

There aren’t many people in this world who can pull off with any real sincerity the kind of simultaneous humble and jubilant display that Badu did on Friday. Really, there aren’t too many people in this world like Badu, period. She is a true gem, the only person in this city even close to capable of pulling off anything like what she did on this night.

Those who know, know. Those who don’t… well, I suppose they don’t need to recognize it, but their lives would probably be richer if they did.

Badu is on a level all her own. And Dallas is endlessly lucky to have her.

All photos by Jonathan Stafford.
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