With the widespread co-optation of the Black slang term “woke,” Erykah Badu was asked about how it’s been misinterpreted in a recent interview with Ari Melber on MSNBC. And the singer made it plain.
“I think they mean Black. It’s another way to say ‘thug’ or something else, right?”
Badu introduced “stay woke” in the song “Master Teacher” on her 2008 album New Amerykah Part One.
“I am known to stay awake,” the song begins. “What if there were no n— only master teachers? I stay woke,” a group of vocalists respond, as Badu repeats the phrase in the nearly 7-minute song.
Melber asked Badu about the misinterpretation of woke in the mainstream, and especially among Republicans who have denigrated the term.
“It is what it is. It doesn’t belong to us anymore,” she answers. “Once something is out in the world it takes a life of its own. It’s an energy of its own.”
Badu then shared what she meant by the term, which is a meaning many Black activists adopted amid the increased awareness of police brutality, particularly in the 2014 Ferguson uprisings with the phrase “stay woke.”
“I can tell you what woke means. It just means being aware. Being in alignment with nature. Because if you’re in alignment with that, you’re aware of everything that’s going on. It’s not only in the political arena. That means with your health. That means in your relationships. That means in your home. That means in your car. It means in your sleep.”