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‘Next Lifetime’: Erykah Badu’s Sweeping Love Story

A sweeping love story where the stakes of losing the ‘one that got away’ hinges on transmigration.

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Erykah Badu Next Lifetime Cover
Cover: Courtesy of Universal Music

“Next Lifetime,” the second single from Erykah Badu’s debut album Baduizm, is a sweeping love story where the stakes of losing the “one that got away” hinges on transmigration. Why get caught up in the missed opportunities of this plane when there are infinite lifetimes to explore a connection? The song’s cinematic music video takes this prompt and expands it even further. Starting in what looks like an African village, we find Badu greeting elders, carrying baskets, and finding love while fetching water. She locks eyes with another villager (played by Pete Rock), but the timing is bad, her husband (played by then-boyfriend Andre 3000) appears with a baby on his back as she looks wistfully across the pond at what could have been.

Listen to Erykah Badu’s “Next Lifetime” from Baduizm on Apple Music and Spotify.

A kiss on her ankh tattoo transports us to another century, or another lifetime, in 1968, where in the heat of Black Power she encounters the second coming of her missed connection from the rural village – except this time he’s a spirited activist. They fall into a relationship only for fate to play another trick. In this century, though she’s found her lost love, a character played by Method Man catches her eye, sending her back down the spiral of longing.

A near-death encounter where Method Man’s character seems to save her life sends us barrelling into another century, another lifetime, where her previous life’s savior is her new lover in a place called Motherland 3037. In this futuristic landscape which is highlighted by neon colors and references to African tribal ceremonies, Badu is the queen to Method Man’s king but of course, as fate would have it, there’s another love to be had in the ensuing lifetime. This time, in a full circle moment, it is again with Andre 3000.

Ever the teacher, Badu uses a love story to situate herself in the past, present, and ever-expanding future of Black folk. From the motherland of the past to the motherland of the future, the video transcends mere romance between two people and instead spells out a love for the people. It is a love that is buoyed by a deep, rich history and anchored in the belief of the cyclical nature of the world, of reincarnation, and of community. The song reached number one on the R&B and hip-hop airplay chart in May of 1997, but it remains a fan favorite today and will likely remain so for lifetimes to come.

Listen to Erykah Badu’s “Next Lifetime” from Baduizm on Apple Music and Spotify.

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