PART DEUX: 3-30-10 is upon us, so Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh is in stores. Her video for the first single "Window Seat" is already stirring controversy for it's vivid depiction of Erykah, in all of her nude glory, being gunned down at the same location that JFK was more than four decades ago. Read the following interview to gain more insight into her feelings on the guerrilla techniques used for the conception and filming of the video in Dallas.
Q: To start, what can you tell me about the thought process behind the video for “Window Seat”?
EB: It was filmed Saturday (March 13) before St. Patrick’s Day. It was a pretty spontaneous thing. The song “Window Seat” is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution. I wanted to do something that said just that, so I started to think about shedding, nudity, taking things off in a very artful way. I am from the theater, and this is just a part of expression to us, a part of art. And I saw a video by a group called Matt and Kim, and it was filmed in Times Square. And I thought it was the bravest, most liberating thing I’ve ever seen two people do. And I wanted to dedicate this contagious act of liberation and freedom to them. I hoped it would become something contagious that people would want to do in some way or another.
Q: And what was the thinking on the location and the Kennedy element to it?
A: Times Square is the most monumental place in New York, and when I was thinking of monumental places, the grassy knoll was the most monumental place in Dallas I could think of. I tied it in a way that compared that assassination to the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely. That’s exactly the action that I wanted to display.
Q: And I take it you knew that there would be a similar real-life reaction when the video was released?
A: Yeah. I knew that would happen, so as soon as the thought came to my mind, I decided to assassinate myself as a gesture. Because it was going to happen anyway. The video is a prediction of what is happening now.
Q: Tell me about the logistics of filming. Was it really nudity, or was there trickery involved?
A: Oh no, it was straight guerilla cam. I got out of the car and I went for it. A day before, I took the same path alone to see where I was going and to see where the “x” spot was. And we only had one shot to get it right, and I decided to go at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. I told the cameraman that I would meet him there, and when he saw me pull up, he started. We had to speed the music up because we wanted the effect to be slow-motion.
Q: So, it all happened a lot faster than it seems, but there was still time for people to realize what was going on. Were you afraid of the immediate reactions from folks?
A: Yes. I was petrified, period. The whole thing was frightening. The whole idea was frightening. Not being in love with my body, not being secure about being vulnerable, the police coming to take me to jail. I’m breastfeeding right now. Anything I could think of, I did. But those little things diminished as I thought about the big picture. And, as I started to walk, I confronted a lot of fears, and I hoped that it would encourage others to do the same thing in their own way.
Q: Are you afraid of any ramifications now, since the city of Dallas has come out with a statement referring to their disapproval of “guerilla filmmaking”?
A: No. That fear left when I fell to the ground. With the death of that part of me, a lot of those fears died as well. I had a paradigm shift, of sorts.
Q: So, this was meaningful for you in a more important way than just making a video or stunting?
Q: Do you have anything else to say to the folks who aren’t having a positive reaction to this?
A: Sure, I would like to say that it was a protest to awaken a term called “groupthink.” It’s a term that was coined in 1952. It’s the recognition of a state of being for humans. It’s human nature for a person to be afraid to express his or her self in fear of being ostracized by the group or general consensus. A lot of times people are judged unfairly because of that. I think about the Salem witch trials; I think about the assassination of Christ, I think about the character assassination of artists and celebrities on blog sites. I think about all of these things as groupthink. And when I fall to the ground in the video, the word groupthink spills out of my head, because I was assassinated by groupthink. …
When I told my mother what I wanted to do, she was not 100 percent confident that it was the right thing, but she was supportive. I shared it with my family and made sure I told them that this act is not in any way a reflection of who they all are. It’s who I am. They said I had their support. I have young children whom I was considerate of and I told them what I was doing. My 5-year-old said, “OK, Mommy, can I have some more pudding?” My 12-year-old said, “It’s all right because I can explain to everyone that my mother is a wonderful person and she’s just having fun.” After hearing that, I took myself a lot less seriously.
Q: Did you consider the children in the plaza that day?
A: I didn’t think about them until I saw them, and in my mind I tried to telepathically communicate my good intent to them. That’s all I could do, and I hoped they wouldn’t be traumatized. The people that got caught in the shot seemed as if they didn’t even see me. There were a couple of people, and a guy picking up clothes. It all happened so fast. Of course they saw the camera, so they knew we were shooting something. But it was a great day for me.
Q: So, no regrets?
A: No regrets. Move forward from here.