As Grammy week kicked off in Los Angeles, stars like Yara Shahidi and Janelle Monáe headed to Hollywood to pay tribute to Erykah Badu and the 20th anniversary of her debut album Baduizm at Essence’s eighth annual Women in Music event at NeueHouse on Thursday.
The iconic singer-songwriter has not only continued to expand her musical repertoire since the debut of the album in 1997 but also makes statements with her ever-evolving style, showing off her creativity and unique fashion sense with each look that she wears.
So, it was only fitting that Badu shut the red carpet down with an undeniable swagger by arriving in an Ashi couture black one-shoulder dress complete with a velvet bodice and a ruffled skirt that had a train so long someone had to pick it up as she made her way down.
Badu completed her look with her signature jaw-dropping hat—this time opting for a tall black version that would’ve put any of Pharrell’s accessories to shame. “I feel like I’m 6, and I’m putting a painting on my mom’s refrigerator,” Badu told InStyle of how it felt to be honored at the event. “I feel like I’m in a dream, really, right now. I’m thinking about my grandmothers, and can’t wait for them to see the pictures and all those things, because this is why I do it, for them. They’re 90.”
Before the event began, Shahidi and Serayah were among the many guests to sing Badu’s praises. “She’s just such a free being,” Shahidi, who stunned in a purple Greta Constantine dress and statement, pyramid-shaped Soon.Space statement earrings told us.
“There’s nothing about her that feels as though she’s restraining or restricting herself, or editing her down for public consumption,” she continued. “Whenever you see her, whether it’s a public moment, or just on Instagram, it’s just such a beautiful moment, and you see who she is. That’s what I love about her.”
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Serayah echoed those sentiments, saying, “Growing up, listening to her music, and seeing her influence has really inspired me to be myself and my natural self. She just vibes out, and I love that about her.” The Empire star, who rocked a metallic shirtdress and black thigh-high Le Silla boots to the event, paired her look with a strappy bralette underneath.
As guests mixed and mingled at the event and danced to the DJ’s hip-hop set, Solange made a surprise appearance to introduce Badu to the stage.
“She is mother. She is sister. She is friend. She is auntie. She is chief. She is warrior of many tribes, ruler of the chiefs,” Solange (pictured below with Essence Editor-in-Chief Vanessa DeLuca) said. “She is empress of the mystic women, ruler of the free. And she has been that for 20 years.”
“She is a beautiful reminder that you cannot put us in the box,” she continued, before sharing one of her favorite Badu quotes: “Look, I choose peace but say, ‘Don’t walk up on me wrong, because this tea and incense can turn into a Colt 45 and Newports if need be.”
Badu soon hit the stage with a smile in a metallic silver puffer jacket, black pants, thigh-high platform boots, and grabbed the mic with silver claws on her pinkies.
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The crowd cheered and sang along as she stripped off the coat and crooned some of her greatest hits like “On & On” and “Appletree” in a distressed T-shirt topped with several bronze statement necklaces.
“To all the sistahs out there. I love you. I'm with you,” Badu said in between songs, before thanking the crowd for coming as the evening came to a close.
Scroll down to see more of the red carpet highlights from the inspiring evening.
1. Janelle Monáe
at Essence's Black Women in Music.
2. Yara Shahidi
in Greta Constantine.
4. Lil Mama
in Le Silla boots.
6. Keyshia Cole
8. Macy Gray