Since Erykah Badu took over the hosting (and co-writing and co-producing) duties of the Soul Train Awards in 2015, new life has been breathed into the annual affair. Aside from her witty jokes, comical characters and dope performances, one of the biggest and best changes on her watch has been the addition of the Soul Cypher. The first year, Chrisette Michele, K-Ci, Lalah Hathaway and Eddie LeVert kicked things off in a major way, and last year, Ne-Yo, Angie Stone, Tyrese and Gladys Knight followed suit with a little less of a bang.
For the 2017 Soul Train Awards Soul Cypher, Mali Music, Fantasia, Bilal and Faith Evans were handed the microphone while Badu did her thing on the turntables and Robert Glasper accompanied her on keys. How would this group measure up to past years? Well, everyone collectively showed up and showed out. DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown aka Badoula Oblongata aka Sarah Bellum aka She Ill introduced the cypher and its participants, and they all came ready to slay not to play.
Mali Music was first to the mic. While Badu spun The Isley Brothers' "Footsteps In the Dark" instrumental, he melodiously sang. Mali been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately linked to creeping with Jennifer Hudson, so this was a great opportunity to focus on his talent, which he readily displayed. He warmed the mic up for Fantasia who in turn set it on fire with her soulful verses. Toward the end of her segment, Tasia took us to church with a little snippet of her hit "Free Yourself" that had us wanting to pass around a collection plate. Next up was the ever-eclectic Bilal, who came through with some fire of his own lyrically. He touched on topics such as Colin Kaepernick, police brutality and justice so smoothly before interpolating some of the Isley's source material and remixing the lyrics to bring his social commentary full circle. Last to the mic, but certainly not least, was Faith Evans who blessed us with bits and pieces of "You Used To Love Me." Everyone joined her at the end to harmonize and bring the Soul Cypher to a rousing end. Badu added to the big finish by sliding "On & On" into the mix before bidding everyone adieu until next year.