The millennium may have gotten off on a very glitzy note (both musically and image-wise), but such up-and-coming female urban artists as Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray, and Erykah Badu made sure that soul and hip-hop retained some of their natural roots. Most are quick to label Badu as a hip-hop artist, but her classic R&B leanings show that there is much more than meets the eye to the Billie Holiday-influenced Badu's formidable talent.
Badu and her large turban appeared out of nowhere in early 1997, on a murmuring, romantic album that trod the median between old-school soul and contemporary electronic R&B. Badu's songs, especially the hit "On & On" and the catchy "Certainly," recall Sade in their polished, subtle sexiness. Badu almost never raises her voice--save the occasional "ooh-wee!" exultation--but she skillfully uses repetition and chanting to empower her words. Later portraying a beautiful swamp queen, she was one of the only good things about the movie Blues Brothers 2000.--Steve Knopper
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