Another year older, another year wiser. That saying seems appropriate today, as we celebrate Erykah Badu’s new year of life. And if that adage is true, then Fat Belly Bella is reaching some serious levels of insight.
“Teach your children wisdom,” Badu sings on “Drama” off her classic Baduizm LP. “Reality today so they can live tomorrow.”
And in many ways, that’s exactly what she’s done for listeners through the years, both inside and outside of her music. So, on her 45th birthday, The Urban Daily decided to look back at some quotes to live by from the always outspoken and always wise, Sara Bellum.
1. Be Free
“I’m free. I just do what I want, say what I want, say how I feel, and I don’t try to hurt nobody. I just try to make sure that I don’t compromise my art in any kind of way, and I think people respect that.” [Biography]
It’s hard not to respect someone who’s that secure in their freedom, that open to expressing themselves. And throughout her career, Badu’s advocated so that you, too, can gain that level of comfort in your own skin. She’s an example, but you can do the same in your own life.
2. Making Mistakes Is Okay
“I was born to make mistakes, but I ain’t scared to take the weight.” [“Didn’t Cha Know, ” Genius]
A fear of failure is proven to limit your success, according to Business Insider. Keep in mind that “fear of failure” is the culprit there and not just failure. So, understand that making mistakes is part of life, but you shouldn’t be afraid of that. In the end, that might just limit your potential greatness.
3. Spark Great Change
“People are organizing and fusing together to make change, and it’s inspiring. I think it’s part of the natural order of things. We’re evolving, and what helps us evolve is social media. Social media is social evolution. It’s sparking a great change.” [Noisey]
Badu was talking specifically about Black Lives Matter and that’s a great example of this. Using that to build on, though, it’s helpful to remember the impact that a few likeminded people can have. And it’s also vital to recognize how one person can help spark a movement. That one person could be you and thanks to social media, that’s more of a reality than ever.
4. Figure It Out
“If you put me on Pluto, I can figure it out.” [Pitchfork]
Badu’s confidence is admirable. In life, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of stress, depression, and so on, but success relies on figuring your way out. So, whether it’s Pluto or just your work week, know that you can always figure it out and be confident as you go through that confusion.
5. Take Your Time
“I consider myself a nice, slow burn. Plus, it’s not a race. And I have a lot to share.” [Pitchfork]
It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race. Who has more money? Who has more Twitter followers? Who has more peace of mind? But remember that this isn’t exactly a race. And in the end, a nice, slow burn can be just as impactful as a rapid raging fire.
6. Make Sure It’s Real
“Make sure it’s real. When you do it, it gotta be real, or that’s not it. That is something I carry with me in my pocket.” [GQ]
It’s so easy to get blinded by the fake, but authenticity always shines brighter.
7. Keep Growing
“The best part of being a mom is that I get to grow with my children [Seven, 18, Puma, 11, and Mars, 6].” [Us Magazine]
Some often think only kids grow until they’re a certain age, but the truth is, we never really stop evolving (no matter how old we are). And the mindset that we do stop can often times hinder growth in other areas of our lives from love to work to creativity. Keep growing.
8. Choose To Not Have Fears
“I don’t have any fears at all. At this point, they’ve pretty much dissolved. It was a choice. You choose to be in your mind and fears exist inside your mind.”
This notion, that we can choose to have fears, is actually refreshing. So, next time you’re stressing out about life, remember, choose the opposite path.
9. Find Beauty
“Beauty looks like encouragement, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, carefulness and compassion.” [Essence]
Beauty isn’t just skin-deep. The fact that she says you can find beauty in things like patience and acceptance makes me think you can find beauty almost anywhere in your life. And that’s something to carry with you for sure.
You cannot censor someone’s opinion. You cannot censor art. But you can be encouraged to build something from it.”
Everyone’s offended and everyone’s upset by others’ opinions. And we want to censor things so much, it seems. But, what if, instead of asking for censorship, we build on dialogue and build on creativity? That’s what Erykah advocates and you can’t be mad at that.
11. Follow your heart.
“Don’t second-guess yourself. Follow your heart, no second thoughts.” [Gawker]
Erykah’s faced a lot of criticism over the years, but this advice has served her well. And it could be beneficial for all of us, to keep our hearts ahead of us and to avoid those second thoughts that might stop us from reaching our goals.
12. Get An Asshole Checker
“If I had to give you any piece of advice as an artist, it would be this: Get yourself an asshole-checker. Because a lot of times we don’t know. We get so used to getting everything that we want.” [Interview Magazine]
Badu told Kendrick Lamar this during an Interview Magazine piece, but the truth is, you don’t need to be an artist to have one of these, um, checkers. So, keep an honest friend around to let you know when you might need to get checked…and if you can, reach some self-awareness to know when you’re doing too much.
13. Be Involved (Even If Obstacles Exist)
“You know, I’ve created a lot of my videos and directed or co-directed all of them. I write my own lyrics and co-write the music and do the concepts and collaborate on the artwork for my albums. Anything that has to do with my work, my hands are in it—and I’ve created it all out of my blood, sweat, and emotions. But I see that men, in some circumstances, can have this power to shut all of my dreams down at any time.” [Interview Magazine]
This is a sad truth, but one that must be faced. In life, you’ll have challenges placed in front of you as blockades for your success. But don’t let that deter you from being involved in all aspects, the way Erykah has. And while some men have had the power to shut all her dreams down, she’s still persevered with a hands-on approach.
Sidenote: If you happen to have the type of privilege that can shut a dream down, make sure you keep this quote in mind, too.
14. Just Let Things Happen
“How do I get my creative juices flowing? I just let it happen. And if I’m not being or feeling creative, I just let that flow as well because that means it’s downloading period. That’s a time where I’m not supposed to be creating. I’m supposed to be learning.”
15. Love And Laugh
“The world needs more L.O.L. and L.O.V.E.”
Yeah, if we can all just laugh a little more and love one another more, things will certainly be better. Think about that next time you’re mad and being hateful. Just laugh and love, man. Just laugh and love. It’ll make everything better.
16. Make A Smile For Yourself
“Take your time, smell the flowers Make a smile for yourself Girl, don’t make livin’ so hard So hard, So hard, I keep tellin’ myself.” (“A Child with the Blues”)
Looking for outside validation sucks. Instead, do yourself a favor. Go stand in front of a mirror. Take a second with that reflection and make a smile for yourself. Sometimes, life is difficult on its own without us making it even harder. So, take a moment for self-reflection, take a moment to smile, and take some time to smell life’s flowers. It’ll make this difficult road just a little bit easier to traverse.
17. Learn Your Lessons
“Peace and blessings manifest with every lesson learned. If your knowledge were your wealth then it would be well earned.” (“On & On”)
Has there ever been a time when you’ve wondered, Why am I going through this? Badu asks us to think of some of those times as lesson teachers. And if that’s the case, then every helpless situation where you come out more knowledgable is really just a moment of peace, a moment filled with blessings. That shift of thinking could really go a long way. And in the end, your knowledge is well earned because you had to live to learn.
18. Don’t Waste Time
“I don’t walk around trying to be what I’m not. I don’t waste my time trying to get what you got.” (“Appletree”)
Whether keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians, a lot of that “keeping up” time is really just a waste of it. Instead of trying to be like others (or better than others, too), focus on who you actually are. Here, Badu also adds some cool advice for those trying to live outside their means or trying to get that unattainable thing…Just be yourself and love what you’ve got. Anything else is just, well, a waste.
19. Please Yourself.
“I work at pleasing me ‘cause I can’t please you and that’s why I do what I do.” (“Appletree”)
Some people believe that they can please others. They try, try, and try to do that all the time. They think that if they look more like this, or act more like that, that they’ll please others. But no, that’s no way to live. Badu’s “Appletree” line reminds us that we have to please ourselves before we can really worry about pleasing others.
“Every now and then, I wanna to throw my hands up in the sky / Cause one day I know I’ll be flyin’ high / And I know yeah I got to get down On my knees and pray / C’ause in heart I know I’ll see that day.” (“My Life”)
There’s a lot to be said about the power of positive thinking. If you want to “fly high” in your love life, school, or career, you have to visualize it first. Here, on this Mama’s Gun cut, Badu taught us that she can dream of throwing her hands up high because she knows she’ll be flying high one day. Stay positive, visualize the future, and then go out and make it happen.
21. Focus, destroy demons, and make your money last.
“Living in a world that’s oh-so-strange / Boy, don’t let your focus change / Taking out the demons in your range / Living in a world that’s oh-so-fast / Gotta make your money last / Learn from your past.” (“Time’s a Wastin’”)
If you could only use one of the quotes here to live your life by, it might have to be this one. That’s partly because it encompasses so many lessons in one: Don’t let your focus change, take out all demons and make your money last. And in the end, succeeding with these could really make life a whole lot easier. Thanks for the gems, Ms. Badu.