When some people think of Erykah Badu, they think of head wraps and Afro wigs. Others think about the fact that she used to date Common or that she had a child with Outkast’s Andre 3000. But Badu is much more, especially with her fifth full-length album, “New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War.”
Badu does not disappoint as she offers more of that earthy, soul sister sound that makes us love her.
“Amerykahn Promise,” the first song on the album, sounds like the score to a blaxploitation film. Complete with funky electric guitars and live handclaps, this unorthodox opening really sets the tone for an album full of different sounds and influences.
“The Healer” is the second single off this album and it features a minimalist track of heavy bass, drums and tinkling chimes by the incomparable Madlib. On this song, Badu talks about the healing power of hip-hop, with the mantra
“Allah/Jehovah/Yaweh/Dios/Maat/Jah/Rastafari…it’s bigger than religion/hip hop.”
Even though Badu is not known for rapping, her music always has a hip-hop element and sensibility flow. The respect that she shows in her second single on the album would put people who actually rap to shame.
The production on “Soldier” is a bounty of boom-bop drums, flutes and a buzzing base line. She begins this tale by talking about a young man who was the hope of the neighborhood – the rose that grew from the concrete, if you will. She laments this young man being gunned down in a senseless act of violence. She also references the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina victims.
“To my folks in Iraqi fields/ this ain’t no time to kill…I got love for my folks/ baptized when the levy broke/we gone keep marching on/ till we hear that freedom song.”
The track titled “Telephone” can be considered the best song on the album. It’s a very smooth track with a flute, a keyboard and a drum set with the snare turned off. What makes this song so special is that Badu wrote it as a tribute to her friend, the recently deceased J Dilla, who was much respected and well loved in the hip-hop community. The liner notes said the song was written a day after the ceremony.
“Honey” is the first single from this album and is produced by North Carolina’s Ninth Wonder. This song was leaked on the Internet and later was placed as a hidden track at the end of the album. On this song, Badu talks about a guy, saying, “Sugar got a long way to catch you, boy.”
This album deserves an A because there is nothing wrong with it. The sound is a funky, ambient, psychedelic mix, with a match of instruments and vocals that come together to form one big Afro-centric acid trip.
Badu takes a very fresh approach to music; she doesn’t just have the verse-hook-verse-hook formula. She weaves her voice around the sounds so that it almost becomes an instrument itself.
Most artists want all the attention on them and their voice, but she’s actually concerned with having a relationship with the music. This is what separates her from the other so-called “singers” shaking their shimmy all over MTV.