When people think of longtime neo-soul musicians, Erykah Badu, with her eclectic persona, is one of the first names that come to mind. With a music career that spans nearly four decades and classic tracks like “Next Lifetime,” “Call Tyrone” and “On & On”, Badu has proven that she’s a creative force in the industry.
These days, Badu can often be found sitting front row at international Fashion Week shows. She has also tried her hand at acting, and producing and has even served as the face of both Tom Ford and Givenchy for fragrance and clothing collections, respectively. Known as the Queen of Neo-Soul, with a track record this strong, one question comes to mind. “Exactly how much is Ms. Badu worth these days?”
Erykah Badu’s Early Life
Born Erica Abi Wright in Dallas in 1971, Badu started performing at an early age. As young as four years of age, she frequently sang and danced at the Dallas Theater Center as well as The Black Academy of Arts and Letters. By her early teenage years, she was performing at the local radio station with other artists like Roy Hargrove.
It was around this time that she also chose to change how her name was spelled. Badu shifted from Erica to Erykah as a symbol of rejecting a slave name. As she put it, the “kah” portion was meant to signify the inner self. Likewise, she swapped Wright for Badu for several reasons. First, it was her favorite jazz scat sound. But she also liked that the word badu is used by the Akan people in Ghana to refer to the tenth-born child in a family.
The Beginnings Of A Music Career
Erykah Badu graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and enrolled in Grambling State University to study theater. However, by 1993, she left school and decided to focus her attention on pursuing a music career. It was around this time that she created a 19-track demo with her cousin and actively began touring. Eventually, Badu’s cousin would land her the opportunity of a lifetime — to record a duet with D’Angelo titled “Your Precious Love.” In 1994, she opened for him at a show in Fort Worth. It was around this same time that she was signed to Universal Records.
Baduizm And Becoming The Queen Of Neo-Soul
Erykah Badu’s first full-length studio album was “Baduizm,” which was released in 1997. It was considered a commercial success, received significant critical acclaim, and even debuted at number two on the Billboard charts as well as number one on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Because the neo-soul genre was still in its infancy and “Baduizm” so neatly encapsulated many of its core features, Erykah Badu quickly became the face of the genre. As a result, she was dubbed the Queen of Neo-Soul. Meanwhile, her debut album was certified Platinum three times by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as Gold by the British Phonographic Industry and the Canadian Recording Industry.
To further solidify her place, “Baduizm” netted Erykah several awards between the 1997-1998 awards season. This includes the Favorite Female Solo Single (for “On & On”), Favorite Female Solo Album, and Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year (for “On & On”) from the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards in 1997.
In 1998 she won Favorite R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist at the American Music Awards, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for “On & On) and Best R&B Album at the Grammy Awards, and Outstanding New Artist and Outstanding Female Artist from the NAACP Awards. She also netted the Favorite Female Soul/R&B Single (for “On & On”), Favorite Female Soul/R&B Album, and Favorite New R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist (for “On & On”) at the 1998 Soul Train Music Awards.
Erykah Badu’s Musical Legacy
Without a doubt, Erykah Badu’s musical catalog is known as prolific and influential. But many people will be surprised to realize that she has only released five studio albums since debuting as a major label artist in 1997. Her most recent album was in 2010, “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh).” Yet, Badu has remained very active, often collaborating with other artists and regularly touring (including a performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series).
In the mid-2010s, Badu began releasing mixtapes as well as remixes, such as with Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” In 2015, she began releasing albums under her label, Control Freaq, rather than through Universal. Other mixtapes she independently released included “But You Caint Use My Phone” in 2015, “This $hit Too Easy” in 2016, as well as multiple singles such as “Trill Friends,” “Come See Badu” and “Thru It All.”
To this day, Badu is still considered the Queen of Neo-Soul and the First Lady of Neo-Soul by many critics and counterparts — even though she shies away from using those terms. Additionally, in 2023 Rolling Stone listed Erykah Badu as the 115th Greatest Singer of All Time out of a list of 200 musicians.
Erykah Badu’s Current Net Worth
While Erykah Badu is considered one of the greatest neo-soul artists of our generation, many people will be surprised to find that her current net worth is estimated to be between $10 and $14 million. Much of this is directly tied to album sales, streams, and tour revenue. However, Badu has other ventures outside of music. This includes a foray into acting which began in 1998 when she appeared as Queen Mousette in the 1998 film “Blues Brothers 2000” and the role of Rose Rose in the 1999 movie “The Cider House Rules.” She has also appeared in several documentaries as herself. As previously mentioned, she has also served as the face of Tom Ford’s White Patchouli fragrance which was released in 2008, as well as the face of Givenchy’s spring 2014 collection.