LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the 20 years since her groundbreaking debut "Baduizm," Erykah Badu has only gotten more creative. Besides continuing to make music, she's been a TV host and producer, performed with her daughter in the Lone Star Circus and delivered dozens of babies as a certified doula. She even changed her Twitter handle to ErykahBadoula .
Essence magazine will celebrate Badu's work and the 20th anniversary of "Baduizm" on Thursday at its eighth annual Black Women in Music gala in Los Angeles.
"From the time that she first hit the scene with her album 'Baduizm,' we all fell in love with the genius that is Erykah Badu," editor-in-chief Vanessa De Luca said in a statement. "It is only fitting that we honor the accomplishments of our neo-soul queen, whose remarkable artistry still moves us 20 years later."
"Baduizm" was released in 1997 and went on to win the Grammy for best R&B album, besting releases by established performers like Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle and Babyface.
Reflecting on her debut, Badu said she didn't realize her style was so unique as to launch its own genre.
"I just wanted to share how I felt and hope that I could spark feelings in others," she said in a recent interview. "...I thought it was more of a movement for creativity and self-expression. After that, I just kind of used the same formula. I take my time and write what I feel. If there's nothing to say, then I don't have anything to write."
Badu said she's still "working on music every day of my life," but that's just part of her creative work. She's putting together an EP with emerging singer-songwriter D.R.A.M., producing a documentary for "Baduizm 20," planning her annual birthday party jam session in her hometown of Dallas and studying to become a licensed midwife.
Becoming a birth assistant was her response when one of her best friends was expecting in 2001.
"She had a natural, 52-hour labor," Badu recalled. "And I noticed after the whole thing was over that I hadn't gone to sleep, I wasn't hungry, I didn't leave her side. So it felt like something that came (to me). Most of our true gifts are really natural to us. So I began to study midwifery and I became a doula."
Badu volunteers her services, ensuring the mother is healthy and comfortable throughout her pregnancy and "up to the last few seconds until she's no longer someone's apartment and she becomes someone's restaurant."
"It's like being the welcoming committee," she said.
The 45-year-old artist doesn't know how her work as a doula has affected her music, but she knows both come from the heart.
"It's all love," she said. "I think they all come from the same place, all of the work that I do: music, being a doula, being a parent. It all comes from a place of sincerity."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .