Erykah Badu became a pop star by never compromising her unique musical vision. Many critics argue that she created an entirely new genre called neo-soul by blending elements of jazz, soul, hip-hop and R&B. The style made her incredibly popular. Her first record “Baduizm” debuted in 1997 second on the Billboard 200 charts and quickly went triple platinum.
Badu has long been just as uncompromising with her public comments and actions, even though they often stir controversy among her fans. In the music video for her 2010 song “Window Seat,” for instance, she stripped naked in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza and pretended to be shot in the head, a strange reflection on or mockery of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
That uncompromising streak continued in a controversial interview Badu gave to Vulture’s David Marchese – posted online Wednesday – in which she said she sees a good side to everyone, including Adolf Hitler.
Badu hasn’t released a record since 2010, but she gave the interview in advance of the tentative reissue of “Baduizm” in February. After a short discussion of music, Marchese asked her if she can separate an artist from his art when considering the sexual misconduct allegations that have dominated headlines for months, specifically those against rapper XXXTentacion and comedians Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby.
Badu said she’s hesitant to pass judgment on people such as Cosby, who was accused of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment by at least 60 women. She doesn’t “want to get scared into not thinking for myself.”
Badu added, “if he’s sick, why would I be angry with him?” She admitted that her viewpoint might be poorly received, saying “I could be crucified for saying that,” but that “the rush to get mad doesn’t make sense to me.”
She added that it’s important not to choose sides but to “see all sides simultaneously” in an attempt to find good in people. Badu claims she does this, and that she can see the best side of everyone. As an example, she pointed to Hitler.
“I see good in everybody,” Badu said. “I saw something good in Hitler.”
“Come again?” Marchese said.
“Hitler was a wonderful painter,” Badu replied.
Before his military and political career, Hitler strove to be a painter. But as a young man, he was rejected from art school in Vienna and abandoned the craft.
Marchese asked why “would his skill as a painter have to do with any ‘good’ in him.”
Badu quickly switched gears.
“Okay, he was a terrible painter,” she said. “Poor thing.”
She then lamented Hitler’s upbringing, saying he had a “terrible childhood” without elaborating on why.
Many condemned Badu’s comments on Twitter after the interview was posted, including the Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
“You are a role model to many, and as such, you should immediately apologize for these irresponsible and misguided comments,” Greenblatt tweeted. He also said: I also like to think that it is good in all people, but Hitler is pure evil. I don’t care if he painted or was a vegetarian; Hitler is responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews & a war that claimed the lives of tens of millions. Shame on you for downplaying that.”
“Erykah Badu, when you say you can see good in Hitler, just remember something,” tweeted British journalist Joshua Zitzer, who said he is the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor. ” . . . In your mind, that might seem like a really smart and nuanced point. To Holocaust survivors and their ancestors, it’s a kick in the teeth and an unnecessarily offensive thing to say.”
Ashley Weatherford, an editor with New York Magazine, simply said of the interview: “my jaw is currently on the floor.”