Trust me. Chasing a queen ain’t easy. You have to conquer thunder and lightning. Or in my case that ànd Sahara sun and desert heat. The woman on the Polaroid displayed on this little blog is the almighty ERYKAH BADU, critically acclaimed as the Neo-Soul Queen and much compared with the late Billie Holiday. There is no need to introduce this beautiful woman.
Do you remember when you heard Erykah Badu for the first time? I do. I was 15 or 16 years old and I heard the song on the radio and I recorded it on a cassette and played it over and over and over again. This song hit my ears like lightning and made my heart bleed a little.
After that one, came the amazing Bag Lady, then later on she got me thinking twice about Tyrone, she goes On and On with songs like Didn’t You Know, Cleva, and ofcourse Love Of My Life made my knees go weak. I cannot forget about The Other Side Of The Game, and remember this cool video for Honey. This woman never stopped working since the day she entered the music scene. Did you know she started out as a backing vocal for D’ANGELO?! And apparently, word is that this video below is her very first video appearance!
Of course I cannot forget her song with ZAP MAMA (Congo/Belgian artist Marie Daulne is a friend)
Now, after she gave birth to her third child Mars Merkaba she recently released her 5th studio album New Amerykah Part Two; Return Of The Ankh together with the controversial and much debated video that you can check out here, but I’m sure you already watched this one.
You have to work hard to keep your throne as a Queen, but with 5 studio albums and 1 live record since 1997 you’ll understand you better bring in some heavy arms if you want to try and attempt a royal coup on this one. OK. It’s time for us to go back.
Here is how the story goes…
The second festival of this summer on the list was past weekends’ LES ARDENTES festival in LIEGE aka TOXCITY aka LOS ANGELIÈGE.
I love Liège. To me that city is the equivalent of Ostend: same meat, different gravy, but with that same raw taste. I really like the Les Ardentes Festival. It’s big but not huge and massive like others, and very laid back. I think they really do their best to have both a different as interesting line-up in according to other, bigger Belgian festivals that are more predictable in their line-ups every year. Besides, Les Ardentes is #apolaroidstory trooper since last year, and also this year, they gave me a bracelet/pass that allowed me to walk, crawl, jump under/up/next/ the stage like a regular crew-member, which brings me one step closer to a possible Polaroid success. Don’t make no mistakes, it’s just one step closer. I still don’t have access to the artist-villages and I have to work hard to get a Polaroid, trust me. You can read here and here about my past adventures at Les Ardentes and you’ll understand.
Did you know that Belgium has the most and also the best festivals of the world? That’s not because I live in Belgium, (no, really) Belgium stacks up prices at the Festival Awards like Beyonce does at the Grammy’s. We might be a tiny country, but besides chocolate, beer and fashion, we know a thing or two about festivals. Urban acts are not very popular on Belgian festivals and Les Ardentes always seizes to amaze on that part. Last year they had acts like Lil Wayne, Lauryn Hill, Q-tip and Kid Cudi on their line-up and for this blog Kid Cudi was a very important Pola-snap achievement. LiL’ Wayne cancelled because he was sick (actually, the Paris Collette store tweeted that he wasn’t really ‘sick’ in bed but shopping at their store, but hey..) and Lauryn Hill cancelled. The line-up for this year looked very, very promising with acts like DRAKE, JANELLE MONAE, MISSY ELLIOT, NERD and yes… ERYKAH BADU. I was stoked! (And so glad I didn’t have to run after Pharrell Williams any more. A girl can only take so much, you know.
But, unfortunately, things got a lot less lucrative when Drake cancelled his European tour due to the condition of his mother’s health and Janelle Monae cancelled because apparently she had a double booking. Bummer in very hot summer. This resulted in 3 days hustling for Missy Elliot on thursday and Erykah Badu on saturday. Two ladies indeed, but it’s always harder to chase the ladies for this blog for some reason (you know ladies always play hard to get) and these women were from a very high caliber if you know what I mean. So, first runner-up was Missy Elliot. I never saw her live so I was very curious to see her perform. The whole venue was stoked, no doubt about it and with a big entourage of 8 dancers, DJ and co-host on stage she most definitely did a big entrance. But… the show was really not put together well, a bit messy even and there were a lot of sloppy gaps in between, the songs were played out very shortly and I could not understand her rhymes, which for me personally, is always a bit of a downer. However… there was one act that caught both me and Jules’ eyes. Missy Elliot brought a girl on stage with the name of SHARAYA and she only performed one song, but BOY O BOY, she did it flawlessly, powerfully and she danced insanely in sync with the most stunning dancer I’ve seen in a while and the two of them where dancing like sexy Siamese cats (and I don’t even like cats) and it was f-ing DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. Definitely something that 1. should be caught on tape properly and 2. you should keep a close eye on in the future.
So.. I’ll definitely need a rain check on a Missy Elliot performance, even if it’s just for her costume changes. This one was my favorite.
Polaroid wise things were looking no very good. You have to be constantly on your toes, looking out for entourage, being at the right spot at the right time, finding out who is the right person to talk to. In Missy’s case, that was looking out, in a group of twenty people, for the one right person to pitch our story. We decided not to bother the dancers, since I was guessing they would not pay attention to our request. They are there to dance, and there are probably a 1000 people getting at them every day trying to get at Missy Elliot. Also. Working in extreme heat is quite… challenging.
You get lazy, you want to sit and lay down all day and not walk, run and chase people around while sweat is dropping off your entire body. Not sexy. So, in between waiting and hanging at the parking lot where artists arrive and leave, I heard that Missy Elliot’s bodyguard was very protective, semi-rude (apparently he ran away with a cellphone of a photographer who was actually making a phone call and couldn’t be bothered about Missy passing him by, and I also overheard a story about the bodyguard erasing some footage from a camera, after Missy gave her approval on it). Basically, I heard through the grapevine that I should definitely not overlook him in hierarchy when it comes down to Missy and pull out my best Bambi-eye move. So, he was enjoying a glass of wine with the dancers right in front of me, so I knew what to do. I walked straight up to the big dude and tapped him on the shoulder. He literally looked down on me (he was HUGE) and I explained the blog. He was not very impressed, and said: “Basically you want a Polaroid of Missy? Well, If she walks out, I’ll let you approach her, so you can ask for yourself, but if it’s no, than it’s no. Understood?”. I happily agreed and continued my main occupation of the festival: waiting.
Suddenly the bodyguard comes back outside, walks up to me and says: “Missy is not gonna happen today. Not possible. Period.” and left me standing there. Uhm. Ok then? Five minutes later she walked us by (she is so cute and tiny!) and the bodyguard gave us the evil dark eye, so we didn’t even dréam of pulling out a hollywood-blockbuster voice-over like we did with Snoop Dogg – one time is more than enough if you ask me. So that was not very succesfull..
Clock was ticking 03 AM, – Missy had performed around midnight- and we were standing there empty-handed, realising we only had one Polaroid option in the next 2 days (no Drake and no Janelle) and the weather predictions were hot – hotter – hottest. Challenging to say the leas, but we were not complaining. Besides, I prefer Fata Morgana’s before typhoons. So there we were again two days later, with our complete and undivided attention to snap Erykah Badu on Polaroid. We decided to wait at the parking lot early so we would not miss any opportunity and see for ourselves with how many people Erykah Badu was coming. Word was she had an entourage of thirty people…. For us, that’s like looking for a needle in a haystack to find and approach the right person. However, there was one person who was there by himself and came out of the artist village (that was inside a building) to smoke a cigar from time to time. We noticed him a few times, hanging around, being a bit bored and since there weren’t so many urban acts at the festival, he kind of stood out styling-wise in between all the sweaty pale, bearded tattooed rockers and hip electro dj’s. You know; wife beater, Nike sneakers and a bright orange polo. The works. We decided to give it a shot and we were right! Apparently we were talking to a very nice fella with the name Michael and he was indeed part of Erykah Badu’s entourage. He was friendly but strict. He advised us, to approach her on the right time, since “timing with Erykah is everything”. Right before he left us to go back into the artist village he said: “Look, I like your project and I’ll try to pitch your story to some people, but I can’t give you any promises and I won’t sell you bullshit just because you girls look cute and all, but I’ll definitely try and do my best”.
Well, that’s bold and honest, and just the way we like it, so we gladly accepted his cooperation and let him be. We continued our main occupation -waiting- while the hot weather was slowly changing. A brisk wind was coming up and the sky was turning dark slowly. Looks like a storm was coming up… We could see thunder and lightning hanging in the sky. Then the lights when out. Literally. The building where the artist village was, was the same building that hosted two indoor venues and because of the weather and extreme temperatures there was an electricity fail in different parts of LIEGE city. So while we were hanging on that parking lot, we saw all the artists that were still hanging in the village, crew members, basically everyone coming out of the building and wondering what the F was going on. This was NOT a good thing. All of a sudden, our quiet and relaxed parking lot spionage-spot turned into a crowded hang-around for everyone. When four vans packed with Erykah Badu entourage arrived, it soon became obvious to us ànd to them that it was impossible to stay in the artist village, since there was no light at all, which meant that they were going straight to the stage to set up their stuff. NOT GOOD.
If there is no entourage hanging around, there is no way to pitch our story and project, we had no permission to go on stage to approach them and last but not least: How the HELL is a Queen supposed to go in a dark artist village and chill right before her concert? From how things were looking, she will probably be escorted by van, right to the back of the stage, so she can immediately enter the stage and nobody has to bother her or ask her for Polaroids or something. (I mean, who does thàt? FUCKED. But… suddenly I got tapped on the back and when I turned around Michael was standing behind me and a man he introduced me to with the name of RASHAD. Apparantely Rashad played in Erykah’s band ànd was the proud owner of more than 20 Polaroid cameras and a certified Polaroid freak like myself. Needless to say, we hit it off right from the start. We talked very shortly, because he had to perform any moment, but he really wanted to see the rest of my Polaroids and talk some more. OK. While we were heading to the stage where Erykah was performing we noticed that our instincts were right. A black van with blinded windows passed us by and when the car was parked at the back of the stage, we saw a lady coming out, entering the stage. We quickly entered the festival and were impatiently waiting for Erykah Badu. Behold for thy shall look upon a queen called BADU. When she entered the stage, her styling was Inca-inspired with a large camel hat, a red and black plaid dress, accessorized with an extra large bright patterned scarf and lacké black ankle boots. #killeroutfit
Her performance was amazing. Sound perfection, voice impeccable. She truly is what she stands for. An amazing artist. We almost forgot that we were working and finally had the time to sit back, relax and enjoy her performance until we see Erykah bowing down and addressing the audience: “Thank you Belgium, My name is Erykah Badu. Thank You and Goodnight.” Uhm. Hold on. Whut? She was ending her performance after only playing four songs and performed for approximately 30 minutes… I’ve heard before that ‘when Erykah is not feeling it, she is -not- feeling it’. That’s all good, and thank god we are on a festival and not an actual venue, but still that was a bit short and Polaroid wise this meant that we had to start moving like fifteen minutes ago!? We ran immediately to the back of the stage and she was already sitting in the front of a van, waiting to depart. What do you do then? There was security everywhere and we were very hesitant to approach the van. You see, when a queen is tired or maybe having a bad day, approaching her must be done in the most subtile, respectful and carefull way. A queen can act both cruel as mercifully. All of a sudden Jules noticed a girl at the right front door of the van asking Erykah for a picture. Erykah gave her permission and we knew immediately that we could not lose this moment and slowly approached the car. When Erykah was done taking her picture, she looked up and noticed me standing there. I showed her my Polaroid and asked with my eyes if I could take one from her. She nodded gracefully.
When I arrived at the car the security didn’t let me approach the car. When Erykah looked up again I raised my voice and said (shy): “Miss Badu, your security is not letting me get closer to the car…”. She asked the security to clear the entrance and then I found myself next to an open van with Erykah sitting right next to me. She looked so beautiful and very very calm and relaxed. I explained her very relaxed why I would take a Polaroid from her, explained the blog and showed her the other artists. She looked slightly tired. When I showed her the ZAP MAMA picture, she looked at me and asked: “Is she here by any chance…?” I replied and said that “I haven’t seen her around, so I guess that she was not.” She then asked me: “Do you take these pictures with your phone? Because you have applications on your phone to make it look like a Polaroid these days.” I told her that “I fysically took all pictures myself with real film and a real camera.” She smiled and said I could take a picture. I then told her “I was going to take 2 pictures, because Polaroids tends to fail sometimes.” She agreed. She was sitting in a dark van with one door open and for obvious reasons I was not even planning on asking her to leave the car, so I aimed my camera, and praid for the best.
3.2.1. flashing. Lights. Beauty.
After I took the second one, she looked and me and said: “Can I have one?” I agreed, if she was ok with me taking another one? Again she agreed. I took one last Polaroid, gave her my card and told her that she should check my blog when she had the time, we shook hands and I thanked her for being so sweet and cooperative.
I was still a bit dazed and confused when I entered the building where the artist village was, and noticed that the electricity was back up and running. While we were still in a ecstatic phase looking at our Erykah polaroid on some stage, we noticed Erykah’s band still hanging around and we asked if we could take their picture and they were more than happy to provide us with a picture. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Erykah Badu’s AMAZING band – well, at least some of them:
Behind the decks there is RASHAD SMITH. Ok people. This man is responsible for a LOT of songs and notoriously for one peculiar song that I would like to specify. This man produced LL COOL J‘s DOING IT!! I was 15 years old when I first heard that song, and it gave me instant pink blush on the cheeks. That made my jaw drop, but if this information is not satisfying enough I can inform you that this man worked with RAKIM, MC LYTE, AALIYAH, MARY J BLIGE, SLICK RICK, NOTORIOUS BIG… and was responsible for BUSTA RHYMES ‘Whoo ha (all up in your neck)’ track that shot Busta Rhymes into the world like an AK47 or the short version. This man got skills.
Besides a multi-talented producer and polaroid-fanatic the man was also sporting some brand new NIKE AIR MAX. Being the sneakerfreak that she is, Jules spotted them like a hungry eagle from the sky and asked which number they are. Rashad told us that they were brand new and just delivered from NIKE with no further information. Fresh from the NIKE oven!
Next runner up was JON JON aka TRAXX – bass player. He told us, that he was a producer aswell, made pop songs and worked with the beautiful, talented and sweet LEONA LEWIS not so long ago. When I asked him what song he produced that we probably should know he smiled and said: “Well that should be BEYONCE’s DEJA-VU with JAY-Z.” Uhu. Ok . That’s… nice. We were talking with a Grammy award winner!
Next in line was TARON – Drummer. Small detail about Taron. He was blessed with blue eyes. And that my dear readers. is very beautiful. #justsaying
Then we have the very funny RC – Keyboards
And last but definitely not least. NAWROK – Backing vocals
And that was it. We pulled it off. One polaroid in three days of sweat-tsunamis, electricity loss, a tiny storm and a lot of waiting. But it was worth it.
After all we polarized a queen.
PS: Special thanks to JYR for the mental support, fresh HOEGAARDEN ROSE beer, chocolate cake and last but not least, MICHAEL for giving us that little push in the back. Much ❤