Sweet Love: Why Andre 3000 & Kendrick Lamar Are Infatuated With Anita Baker (Video)
Several high profile R&B acts like Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Loose Ends, and Soul II Soul made music in the 1980s that, through sampling, reference, and homage, can be heard in contemporary Hip-Hop. Babies of the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s were inevitably raised on Urban Contemporary radio which housed Funk, R&B and Soul records in their playlists.
During that time, Anita Baker rose to fame as a quiet storm R&B diva. She remains a pillar in the Black community for her sultry alto vocal style, celestial jazzy soundscapes, and romantic songs.
Rappers such as Snoop Dogg have exalted her. On his 2000 MTV Cribs episode, he stated that his most prized piece of memorabilia was a framed picture of himself and Baker. The latest MC icons to speak about Baker being among their greatest influences and dream collaborators are André 3000 and Kendrick Lamar. Both 3 Stacks and Lamar asserted her presence in their musical rearing via their mothers who were huge fans of the legendary songstress.
During a recent interview with GQ, André spoke about wanting to pitch a t-shirt line designed in honor of Baker, now 59 years old. In that feature by Will Welch, the writer points out that Dre’s current “daily uniform” includes a shirt with Anita on it. He aims to adapt that wardrobe into a full clothing line.
3000 explained his connection to the eight-time Grammy Award winner. “My mom used to work in a beauty salon. She did nails and had a little booth, and at a beauty salon, there’s always somebody coming in and selling something, be it cologne, or stolen clothes, or phones that last like a month. And a guy came in, back in the day, with a box of cassettes—my mom purchased these Anita Baker bootlegs. She played them all the time at home, and I started to realize, like, Whoa, I enjoy this.”
Dre, who lost his mother in 2015, says he found himself in an Anita Baker phase. “As you get older, the people you love pop back up. I was going through an Anita Baker phase, and I started trying to buy a T-shirt. So I go on the Internet and I find this site that had shirts with photos of Anita on them. So I bought two or three of them.” Dissatisfied with the quality of the unofficial, unauthorized merchandise, he opted to make his own. “I’m an artist, and I’m buying bootleg shirts of another artist, so I felt bad. So I was like, Maybe, so my conscience feels good, let me try to find an address for Anita and send her a little check. And it’ll be a joke, like, ‘Anita, I just bought these shirts, I feel bad about it, here’s $50.’ Then I started thinking, Wouldn’t it be great to design a line of Anita Baker tees and present the line to Anita? Maybe she needs some merch.” The OutKast co-founder added, “I just want it to come from an angle of, like, ‘Anita, we love you’ instead of ‘Anita, we’re trying to put out a line.’ And to be honest, if I was her manager, or her nephew, I’d be like, ‘Auntie, you gotta do this.'” He concluded that he will be “fine” if Baker declines the gesture.
In a newly-published video interview with Variety‘s Andrew Barker, Kendrick Lamar also spoke of Anita Baker. Asked his “dream collaboration,” the 30-year-old Compton, California superstar named the “Rapture” singer, as well as Sade. “I always liked Anita Baker.” Like the late Sharon Benjamin-Hodo (André’s mother), Paula Oliver (Kendrick’s mother) listened at home. “Records like ‘Give You The Best That I Got’ [are] timeless! Just to be in the same presence or same light [as Anita Baker or Sade]—even just to have a conversation. It ain’t gotta be just [a collaboration. I would] see what inspired these type of individuals to create the way that they did in the time that they did. That’s all I would like.” Previously, Kendrick has worked with George Clinton, Isley Brothers, and most recently, U2 as artists who have legacies stemming from before his 1987 birth.
Anita Baker’s last album (besides 2005’s Christmas Fantasy) is the gold-certified 2004 My Everything. Her music has been sampled by a litany of Hip-Hop artists, ranging from Ice Cube to Drake and A Tribe Called Quest to Logic. In 2012, she released single “Lately.”
Baker is not known to have ever collaborated with Hip-Hop artists.
Additional Reporting by Jake Paine.