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Photograph: Courtesy of Niambi Ra

An Erykah Badu tribute show is coming to the West Village this month

Niambi Ra is performing Badu's greatest hits to celebrate the artist's birthday.

Ian Kumamoto
Written by
Ian Kumamoto

Erykah Badu’s impact on music is undeniable, and her sound has inspired countless new age artists like SZA and Janelle Monae. To honor the singer’s impact, Afrofutirustic hip-hop musician and Broadway actress Niambi Ra is performing an Erykah Badu tribute concert with her band, the Blackstarz, at The Groove in Greenwich Village for one night only on February 25—the day before Badu’s 53rd birthday.

There are few people who could do as fitting a tribute as Ra, a musician who has been deeply impacted by Badu’s sound and who feels connected to her on a spiritual level. Ra tells Time Out New York that even though she knew of Badu growing up, she only got deeper into her discography once she got to high school. “It was like I opened a treasure chest,” she says. “I started this whole new relationship with what it meant to be an artist, and I started seeing my music differently.”

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Both Badu and Ra’s work are infused with the ethos of Afrofuturism, a cultural movement that expresses Black identity, freedom through art and activism that envisions a liberated future for all Black people, per The National Museum of African American History & Culture. Badu first rose to prominence after the release of her debut album Baduizm, a groundbreaking 12-track album that debuted at number two in the Billboard Hot 100 when it came out in February 1997.

Ra is Buddhist, which she says deeply informs her music. She says that in her practice, she’s taught to turn poison into medicine, and believes that music has the spiritual power to heal. Ra spent a semester in Ghana while she was at NYU, and it was there that she met a bass player who became her collaborator on the Blackstarz. They started playing consistently throughout Ghana and quickly became ingrained in the local music scene. The country ultimately helped inform the sound of the Blackstarz, whose name is a reference to the star on the country’s flag and serves as a symbol of hope, strength, and independence.

Ra’s tribute to Badu includes 70 minutes of Badu hits, with a little bit of Chaka Khan sprinkled in. “If you can't get to a Badu concert or you’ve never been,” Ra tells Time Out, laughing. “This is gonna be close to the next best thing.”

You can get your tickets to the tribute concert here.

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