Erica Abi Wright (born February 26, 1971), better known by her stage name Erykah Badu American R&B, soul, and hip hop singer and songwriter, whose work encompasses elements of jazz. She is best known for her role in the rise of the neo soul sub-genre, and for her eccentric, cerebral musical stylings and sense of fashion. Early in her career she was recognizable for wearing very large and colorful headwraps. For her musical sensibilities, she has often been compared to jazz great Billie Holiday. She was a core member of the Soulquarians, and is also an actress having appeared in a number of films playing a diverse range of supporting roles in movies such as "Blues Brothers 2000," "Cider House Rules," and "House of D."
Erykah Badu was born Erica Wright in South Dallas, Texas, in 1971. Her mother raised her single-handedly along with Erykah's brother and sister, since their father, William Wright, Jr., had left the family home early on in their lives. In order to provide for her family, the children's grandmother often helped in looking after them while Erykah's mother, Kollen Maria Gipson (Wright), performed as an actress in various theatrical productions. Having been influenced significantly by her mother, Erykah had her first taste of showbiz at the tender age of 4, singing and dancing with her mother at the Dallas Theatre Centre. By the age of 14, Erykah was free-styling for a local radio station alongside such talent as Roy Hargrove, who, incidentally, was a talented beat-boxer in the 80's and who is now a very successful session musician in his own right. In her early youth, she decided to change the spelling of her name from Erica to Erykah, as she firmly believed her original name to be her 'slave' name. The term 'kah' signifies the inner self, which, when translated from Arabic, means 'can do no wrong'.  Badu is also an African name for the 10th born child used for the Ashanti people in Ghana. Additionally in a letter written to Erykah from her father, "Badu in Arabic means truth and light...good choice kid."
Upon graduating from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Badu went on to study theater at the historically Black college Grambling State University. Choosing to concentrate on music full-time, she decided to leave the university in 1993 before graduating and took on several minimum wage jobs to support herself. She taught drama and dance to children at the South Dallas Cultural Center. Working and touring with her cousin, Robert "Free" Bradford, she recorded a 19-song demo, Country Cousins, which attracted the attention of Kedar Massenburg, who set Badu up to record a duet with D'Angelo, "Your Precious Love," and eventually signed her to a record deal with Universal Records.