Erykah Badu’s 2002 single, “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop) Ft Common (2005), which was directed by Badu and Chris Robinson, was a featured song for the film Brown Sugar. The song was widely popular and made it to number one for Hip-Hop/R&B Singles and Tracks for at least four weeks while also winning a Grammy in 2003. This was deeply important for the personification of Hip-Hop as someone to love, someone that has helped Badu through her course of life (as seen in the video). The song also speaks to the direction of Hip-Hop, as well as how it has either helped and stereotyped hip-hop artists. Thus, this music video was a critique on the corporate industry by which most artists are controlled.
The music video begins with Erykah Badu holding a jar containing the story about her love for hip-hop, as is discovered by zooming into the jar, yet this is juxtaposed with the surrounding items in the frame.What is seen in the above frame are items common to the hip-hop artist origins and aesthetics. Thus, although this song is about the love for hip-hop, we can see by this first image that she is incorporating many other elements to hip-hop. This is also further acknowledged through the lyrics, “Right here what we gonna do is go back/ Way back” which can be seen as going way back for her personal story and love for hip-hop, but also going back with hip-hop and her experience with it.
As the music video moves forward, we see Badu’s experience as a female hip-hop artist. Beginning with her break dancing with other males, introduced with her lyrics as she states, “Cause when the tables turned/ he had to break” and we see that she is competing with all males. Thus, the “break” in the lyrics carries multiple meaning such as break dancing with the break of beats when using a turntable, and also the parting of hip-hop when the music stopped. Including various moments of her origins and experience with hip-hop (break dancing and freestyling).
As part of this experience, Badu also incorporates the unjust policing of black people, even hip-hop artists. The below frame, although picturing Badu, is also a representation of how hip-hop was associated with criminals. Thus, this frame and those before it represent the multiple statuses of people (as she is dressed as a guerilla/activist, non-celebrity, and her self as an artist) who are arrested and policed. Thus, hip-hop artist, black people, and the music itself are policed.
This is followed with her becoming more prominent in the scene and making more money as an underground hip-hop artists. You can see that the images get blurry and the music slows down, as though she is entering a haze and can no longer see things as clearly as she used to.The “screwed” on the shirt later comes to be a subliminal message attempting to warn her about the course of hip-hop, and herself, such that it will not be the same.
This is intervened with crew members forcing her to perform at a concert, as seen below.This scene thus speaks to the corporate industry and the artists who are manipulated for the greed of money. In this frame you can see that the money she had made herself is removed, along with her “look,” or her aesthetic as represented by the hat. This, as a result represents how mainstream media and the corporate industry tries to manipulate hip-hop artists to fit a stereotype. Following, this frame, Badu plays for the audience, which, at first shocks her when she realizes that most of the crowd is white. As she realizes, she is first upset, but then gives in, or jumps into the crowd, so as to make peace and accept the stage in which hip-hop has entered the acknowledgement of it. Common’s verse also adds to this element when he states, “I had to let her go/ She needed cheddar and I understood that/ Looking for cheese, that don’t make her a hoodrat.” Common’s verse is intertextual to his song “I Used to Love H.E.R” wherein he critiques commercialized rap and how it became gimmicky. In this song, however, he comes to makes amends by realizing that the commercialization of it was not as bad as he used to see it.
The music video ironically ends with Erykah Badu spray painting “beginning.” This irony is meant to reflect the beginning of a new era for hip-hop, the beginning of its wider appreciation and greater popularity within the mainstream.
By Zulema Guzman