Originally part of a rap duo that landed opening slots on big name hip-hop tours in the mid-1990s, singer, songwriter and actress Erykah Badu watched her music career advanced rapidly, with just over two years elapsing from her late 1995 discovery, subsequent solo record deal, two successful albums and multiple 1997 Grammy wins. Incorporating blues, jazz, soul and hip-hop, Badu created a fresh, edgy sound all her own, smoother than her rap roots and earthier than the polished R&B popular on the airwaves. Caramel-complected, with expressive, heavy-lidded eyes, Badu, who often dons an Afrocentric regal headwrap, was a compelling presence, with a grace and style that matched her beauty. The evocative, "The Color Purple"-inspired video for "On and On" introduced audiences to the singer's onscreen vitality and magnetism. Her honeyed purr complemented the down-to-earth spirituality injected into her lyrics, and won the performer many fans, catapulting her debut album "Baduizm" to platinum status and garnering her two 1997 Grammys. The follow-up album "Live" was released that same year, making the most of her success. This offering featured the unique single "Tyrone", which advised the titular friend of her soon-to-be ex to come over and help his friend clear his things out of her house. Balancing frank and clever lyrics with a pleasant neo-soul sound, Badu's music was used to good effect in films including "Eve's Bayou" (1997) and "The 24 Hour Woman" (1998). In 1999, she released the single "Southern Girl" with rapper Rahzel and won a Grammy for her work on The Roots' track "You Got Me".
A theater arts major at Grambling State University and a drama teacher in her Dallas hometown, Badu made her professional debut with a role in 1998's "Blues Brothers 2000", playing Queen Moussette, a voodoo priestess who hosts a battle of the bands competition. The following year she co-starred in Lasse Hallstrom's acclaimed adaptation of John Irving's "The Cider House Rules". Badu played cider house migrant worker Rose Rose in the 1940s set drama, and proved an onscreen natural, handling heavy themes including incest, abortion and race relations with a deft, understated performance. Badu's air of dignity and self-possession served her well in this role and her remarkable watchability offered promise for a bright acting future.