This is the first official single from American R&B and neo-soul musician Erykah Badu's fifth studio album, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh). The song finds her dreaming of boarding a plane (with a window seat) and escaping her troubles.
The song features The Roots' ?uestlove on drums. The Roots handled some of the production on Badu's 1997 debut album Baduizm, and a couple of years later the two acts collaborated with Eve on the Grammy-winning song "You Got Me." Baku told MTV News that she can't imagine making an album without ?uestlove, whom she always calls by his real name, Ahmir. "Ahmir is my brother," she said. "We are very close. We've been together through all of my childbirths, all of my relationships, all of my albums from the very beginning. I lived with him at one point in Philadelphia. He comes to Dallas, he comes to 'The Wheel' - my house has a name. It's called 'The Wheel.'"
This song also features keyboardist and frequent Erykah Badu collaborator James Poyser. "James Poyser is my studio husband," Baku told MTV News. "What I mean by that is, I don't do an album without him being present. We are partners, production-wise. There's no deal-breaker in that marriage. We met in Philadelphia when I was working on [1997's] Baduizm. 'Otherside of the Game' was our first creation together. We have not been able to top it yet. That's what we trying to do. Even though we've created a lot of beautiful things, our first child is the one."
Baku clarified that she's just joking about their collaboration. "That's satire," she explained. "We're never trying to repeat or top anything. It's fun working with him, because he can read my mind, and I can read his. I don't read music. I never have. Yet I can describe what I'm trying to hear. He is able to bang it out. He's able to do that."
Delta Airlines have used this song as the boarding music for its flights.
During a listening session for press and VIPs at Chung King Studios in New York City, Badu explained the album title: "I called it 'Part II: The Return of the Ankh because this album is the sister of the left side of my brain - it is the right side. 'Part I was the left side of my thoughts - it was more socially political and my thought process was more analytical. This time there wasn't anything to be concerned with - the album is more emotional and flowy and talks about feelings. It reminds of the days of 'Baduizm - this is just about beats and rhymes in a cipher."
The song's provocative music video was directed by Coodie and Chike of Creative Control (Kanye West's "Jesus Walks
" and "Through The Wire
"). The clip features Badu removing her clothes as she strolls through the streets of her native Dallas whilst strangers stare her down. After she has shed her last garment the singer is shot in the head, falling near the same grassy knoll near where President Kennedy was shot in 1963. Blue blood spills out forming the word "groupthink." Then Badu says in a voiceover, "They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand...they are us. This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual. A single person within a circumstance can move one to change. To love ourself. To evolve."
The singer explained on Twitter that the single-shot clip was produced guerilla-style on the fly: "We only had 1 shot to get it right," she wrote. "We didn't plan the shot. Coodie and I just went raw dog. Too busy lookin for cops and being petrified. i felt like i was going2 do something life threatening.1nce hoody unzip-no tur'n back it was st patrics day in dallas . i was at the grassy knoll . although i was thinking 1 million things as i walked i didnt see anything ... heard people yelling diff things @ me but i held my head up and kept moving. there were children there.i prayed they wouldnt b traumatized."
Coodie explained on MTV News why they decided to end the video with the assassination scene. "She's evolving," he said. "So it's almost like you have to kill off the other person to do that."
"It was also to tie [the JFK assassination] in," Chike added. "He was assassinated there for what reason? There were reasons for his assassination that dealt with him doing things that went against the norm for positive reasons. People try to assassinate your character when you try to step against the grain. That's where the gunshot in the video came. Also, she was inspired by the Matt and Kim video [for 'Lessons Learned'], where they did something shocking in the end."
Badu was charged with disorderly conduct over her nude video shoot after a Texas woman filed an indecency complaint with the Dallas Police Department. A defiant Badu entered a not guilty plea to the charge. She was handed a $500 fine and agreed to serve six months probation for the stunt.
During an appearance on The Wanda Sykes Show Badu denied that she tried to insult the memory of John F. Kennedy in her video by appearing naked near the spot where the President was assassinated. "My point was grossly misunderstood all over America. JFK is one of my heroes, one of the nation's heroes," she explained. "John F. Kennedy was a revolutionary; he was not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt-naked truth."
Badu told MTV News that she knew the video would cause a stir, but felt it was an important thing to do: "I know it was a shocking thing I did," she said. "I expected it to provoke dialogue, and it's an important statement to make. It's about freeing oneself of the layers and layers of things that we have learned as Americans in this country. At the point of becoming naked and individual and free, either you're assassinated spiritually or mentally by the group or worse. The words coming out of my head after I was figuratively and literally assassinated was 'groupthink.' Groupthink is a term coined by Irving Janis, 1972. It pretty much states what happens when a character or person is ostracized for thinking out of what the consensus is. He or she is pretty much thinking [more] with a heart than with loyalty. It's an important thing. It's art. It's performance art."
This was Badu's third #1 on the Adult R&B chart, and her first in eleven years. Her previous two chart-toppers were "Tyrone
" and "Next Lifetime," both in 1997.