Erykah Badu has been a vegetarian for 25 years, a vegan for the last ten of them, and feels a lot better for it, she says over a lunch interview while promoting the new documentary, "Re: Generation Music Project." A fascinating look inside the creative process, the film follows five electronic DJs/producers, each assigned a musical genre and tasked to re-imagine a piece of music as they collaborate with well-known artists to create something new and original. Working in New Orleans, Badu was tapped by Mark Ronson to sing on and write lyrics for a jazz piece ultimately titled "A la Modeliste" after Zigaboo Modeliste, who plays drums on the song.
She had just four hours to finish the song and perform it live that night at Tipitina's, and it was the first time she had such tight deadline. "It was a big challenge. It was hard. I wanted to deliver. I'd never put a time frame on myself before. Usually when I collaborate on projects we generally have a couple of days to reflect a little bit. I always want more time and wish I could have done it better. That didn't happen this time," says Badu, glad that she signed on.
It's the first of several collaborations we'll hear from her this year. Having teamed up with the Flaming Lips for "Now I Understand" (featuring Biz Markie and iPhone voice Siri), she'll sing on two tracks on their next album, due in April, "Babysitter's Drunk" and a cover of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Writing songs for a solo album she'll release at the end of the year, she's currently touring with the electronic music outfit the Cannabinoids and plans to team up with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer Tony Allen and Gorillaz vocalist Damon Albarn on a project called Rocketship to the Moon.
Music aside, Badu's biggest passion is her work as a midwife in training. She's helped deliver eight babies since 2001, most recently last month. "It's my pleasure to be the welcoming committee," says the mother of three kids ages two, seven and 14. Not surprisingly, they're all interested in music and the arts, and Badu says she'll support them if they want to pursue it as a career. "It's a lot of commitment," she tells them. "Be fearless and follow your heart."
"Re: Generation Music Project" opens in 180 theaters nationwide for one night only on Feb. 16, with encores scheduled for Feb. 23. Click here for locations: regenerationmusicproject.com.