even when it feels odd.

i have been a fan of erykah badu since baduizm, she was never in my top ten or even top twenty though. i always appreciated that she had her own style and was uncompromising, even when she came off looking a little off or crazy. i feel that her and bjork have a lot in common. when i moved out to seattle i sold a lot of my music to lighten the load, baduizm and mama’s gun fell victim. after a while i really started to regret that decision.

once rachelle moved out to seattle, and we became roommates, i had the chance to get reacquainted with erykah. erykah is one of the few musical obsessions that rachelle has, and certainly the only artist that makes her run to the record store the day the album is released, where she buy two copies. we spent even more time listening to erykah after the release of worldwide underground in 2003. i consider that album her masterpiece. during that time erykah creeped her way into my constant rotation. so maybe she should be the one writing this? surely this review would have been a lot better if we had time to discuss and analyze it together

new amerykah is the first in a series that depending on where you look is either going to have two or three volumes. the album opens up with “amerykahn promise” which operates more like theme music with erykah’s distinct voice mixed so she sounds more like a back up singer. then we move on to a couple of slow jams with a message, “the healer” which tells us the hip hop isn’t dead and “me” which is a personal song about loving yourself (not in the sexual way, more in the spiritual way). erykah then comes at us with “my people” a subtle rally for people to keep moving on, which falls into the trap of being more of a chant than a song. the middle of the album contains three of the best tracks, “soldier”, “the cell”, and “twinkle”. rachelle has already claimed “soldier” as her song. these three songs show what erykah is capable of, they show her talent of word play and storytelling. also we get more messages, gangs are bad, coke is bad, and the man is keeping us down. aside from erykah’s voice being to low in the mix on “twinkle” they are very smartly produced. “master teacher” and “that hump” are kind of forgettable. “telephone” is another slow jam, the song is based on a story about j dilla and was written the day after his funeral. sorry, but the song needs some serious editing. the last track on the album “honey” and is also the first single, and it is called a bonus track. which to me says that the record label didn’t have faith in any of the songs on the album being a single so they sent erykah back to the studio to produce a “hit”. she basically succeeds, although in a simple way. “honey” has simple lyrics, a somewhat catchy chorus and a melody and bassline that would stand up well to club mixes.

all around new amerykah is a pretty solid album. at times it can sound like a mixtape, but that’s not a bad thing at all, it might take some time for me to fully appreciate it. i am certainly interested to see what new amerykah part two will be like. supposedly it is to be released this summer, so i won’t have to wait long.

  1. notafood said:

    mz badu is angry and her anger moves me as much as her love does. her anger was born of love. new amerykah is her vision of the post political apocalypse, a world of the future primitive. i know i see future primitive everywhere but you can find it too. i need to develop this more because her future primitive is more technological/spiritual than most. relisten to the healer with this in mind. it makes me want to write a thesis for the first time in a long time.

    soldier is the ultimate protest song. it’s not a chant, but we don’t need a chant or an easy refrain (take heed “my people”). we need empathy, direction – backed up by death threats. she wont let us quit, she is militant, and under her leadership i am too.

    give more thought to master teacher. the jury’s still out – it lost me. but i think it’s too deep for me, some kind of spiritual sensei on acid thing.

    i was talking about the hidden-track-slash-single with someone who argued that this was a marketing ploy to sell more albums. i am so with you, though. you dont hide your single and not have it track listed to sell albums. instead this screams that she needed to come up with a single, quick, after everything was printed. honey’s file under easy listening after the rest of the album. still good, but this is the thing that’s not like the others. i think cell should’ve been the single, sure, plenty of cursing, but it’s not like you can tell unless you’re obsessed. but probably “me” was the single since it’s less vulgar.

    the duality of most of the tracks still kind of weirds me out. not sure why every song seems to be two songs in one. again, a thesis is called for.


  2. exit. said:

    see, i knew my review would have been a lot better if rachelle and i had a chance to converse while listening to it together. she has a much firmer grasp on erykah’s mind.

    why didn’t we listen to it this weekend while i was home?

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