Badu's career began after opening a show for D'Angelo in 1994 in Fort Worth; record label executive Kedar Massenburg was highly impressed with her performance and signed her to Kedar Entertainment. Her first album, Baduizm, was released on February 11, 1997. It spawned three singles: "On & On", "Next Lifetime" and "Otherside of the Game". The album was certified triple Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Badu's first live album, Live, was released on November 18, 1997 and was certified double Platinum by the RIAA. Badu is hailed as the queen of neo soul.
Badu's second studio album, Mama's Gun, was released on October 31, 2000. It spawned three singles: "Bag Lady", which became her first top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at #6, "Didn't Cha Know?" and "Cleva". The album was certified Platinum by the RIAA. Badu's third album, Worldwide Underground, was released on September 16, 2003. It generated three singles: "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)", "Danger" and "Back in the Day (Puff)" with 'Love' becoming her second song to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA. Badu's fourth album, New Amerykah Part One, was released on February 26, 2008. It spawned two singles: "Honey" and "Soldier". New Amerykah Part Two was released in 2010 and fared well both critically and commercially. It contained the album's lead single "Window Seat", which led to controversy.
Influenced by R&B, 1970s soul, and 1980s hip hop, Badu became associated with the neo soul subgenre in the 1990s along with artists like D'Angelo. Her work has often been compared to jazz great Billie Holiday. Early in her career, Badu was recognizable for her eccentric style, which often included wearing very large and colorful headwraps. She was a core member of the Soulquarians. As an actress, she has played a wide range of supporting roles in movies including Blues Brothers 2000, The Cider House Rules and House of D. She also speaks at length in the documentaries Before the Music Dies and The Black Power Mixtapes.