This much is clear after Sunday night’s broadcast of the 2015 Soul Train Awards: Erykah Badu needs her own variety show, preferably one that’s buttressed with plenty of live performances by Badoula Oblongata herself.
After entering the stage at Las Vegas’s Orleans Arena on a hoverboard (or scooter, or whatever we’re calling them these days) and belting out a medley of “Danger” and “On and On,” Badu made quick work of joking about her reputation as a rhymekiller.
“As you know, I am the queen of neo soul and people say I have this common effect on rappers: that I make them change gods and wear crochet hats, shoulder pads,” Badu said. “So they have banned me from all of the hip-hop awards with a sign saying ‘Erykah Badu, leave our rappers alone.’ ”
The denizens of soul gathered Nov. 6 for this year’s Soul Train Awards, but the show wasn’t broadcast until Sunday night. At two and a half hours, it remained a bit bloated thanks to some questionable decision-making in the production. Why include a performance from Cameo, preceded by a lengthy pre-taped “Behind the Music” sketch following Larry Blackmon’s codpiece, but not give time for “Candy,” the band’s biggest hit?
What looked like a promising performance by V. Bozeman, whom most know from “Empire,” was cut short to go to commercial, while a dubious and generously timed R. Kelly performance closed out the broadcast. One wonders if BET deliberately decided to include Kelly at the end, knowing discussion of Kelly’s reputation as a sexual predator would result in heightened social media mentions for the show. It would seem so, given that Badu introduced Kelly as someone “who has done more for black folks than anybody,” a declaration seemingly aimed more at stirring up controversy than anything else.
Still, the show had more strong points than weak ones: Tributes to Babyface, who was honored with the Legend Award, and Jill Scott, who received the Lady of Soul Award, featured bring-the-house-down performances from both. And after schooling the audience on the origins of Auto-Tune, Badu DJed a soul cypher featuring Lalah Hathaway, Eddie Levert, Chrisette Michele and K-Ci Hailey.
The show was completely devoted to honoring R&B and therefore supposedly devoid of rappers, although a few made it into the collaborations categories. Silentó, of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” fame won the award for best new artist.
And it would seem no black award show is complete without a shady insult to Iggy Azalea. Taking over duties from Nicki Minaj and closing out the dead horse for the year, Badu included the Australian artist in a bit meant to emphasize the fact that rap was “banned” from the Soul Train Awards.
After putting off mid-show inquiries from Andre 3000 and Young Thug, Badu’s phone rang a third time.
“Who is this? Iggy Azalea? Yeah, hey! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! You can come,” Badu said into her phone. “Because what you’re doing is definitely not rap.”