Erykah Badu has released Mama's Gun, the long-anticipated follow-up to her 1997 multi-Platinum debut, Baduizm. Out on a seven-week tour to promote her second studio album and its hit single, “Bag Lady,” Badu crossed the country from Cleveland to Las Vegas; Mix caught one of two sold-out shows at the famed Paramount Theater in Oakland, Calif.
Monitor engineer Kenny Nash (above) has toured with Brian McKnight, Maxwell and D'Angelo, and notes that on the past four tours, he's been mixing for in-ear monitor (IEM) systems, with or without additional wedge mixes. For the Badu tour, Nash is using a combination of Shure PSM700 and PSM600 Series wireless IEM systems.
“The stage level is pretty controlled,” notes Nash. “[Badu] doesn't like it when it gets really loud, but she still wants it loud enough so that she can feel it — she comes from a hip hop background, and she wants to hear percussion and bass. I have sidefills and floor wedges, and depending on the size of the room, I may have to add a little kick drum or bass in the sidefills, just so it keeps it tight onstage and she can still feel she's with the band.”
Badu's IEMs are fed a full band mix, says Nash. “If there's anything that she may want in her mix, she'll actually sing it [as an ad-lib] during the show, so you really have to pay attention.”
Combining the roles of FOH engineer, production manager and assistant tour manager is Gordon Mack III (below). Mack is mixing on a Midas Heritage 3000, using about 45 inputs and four stereo returns, and records the show every night to DAT and video. “Erykah checks them out and critiques them,” says Mack, whose company, Siahson Entertainment, is providing production for the tour.
Mack uses relatively few effects. “We have one reverb, one delay and one multi-effects that I use two effects on,” he says. “There's a flange that was on the album and a chorus. That's it. Everything else I try to run as dry as possible.”
Erykah Badu sings into a slightly modified Shure SM58. “We tried different vocal mics,” says FOH engineer Gordon Mack III. “Erykah's happy with the regular Shure 58, but she didn't like the wind screen, so we took that off and put a Beta 57 wind screen on it, and it works just fine.”
The Erykah Badu crew, pictured left to right: Perry Winston (stage manager/backline tech), Jamie Adams (FOH tech), Phil Alfieri (lighting tech), Kenn Dugan (monitor tech), Pamela R. Harris (production asst.), Drew Scott (rigger/etc.) and Martin Thomas (lighting director)