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A ‘New AmErykah’ Is Finally Here

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Du Day is finally here. Now that the longing and patience has finally paid off with your iPod vibrating with the excitement that only good, new music can bring, comes time to reflect. Not about whether the album is dope or not, because you already knew it would be from the moment you found out New AmErykah: Part One (4th World War)'s release was imminent. Now is the time to reflect upon why you like it. In my experience, every Erykah Badu album must be digested in five distinct stages:

  1. Joy: You can't believe you have new Badu material in your possession
  2. Shock: Initial listening of album 
  3. Confusion: Not knowing exactly what you just heard and what it all means
  4. Acceptance: Second through fifth listenings of album, and picking out your favorite tracks
  5. Love: Losing track of how many times you've bumped it because now you know the words to most, if not all, the tracks.
First of all, let me just start off by saying that the five-year wait between Worldwide Underground and New AmErykah was worth it. In Erykah's own words, she released this opus when "it is well done, cooked, and ready." In a musical landscape so populated with troubled talent, it is so refreshing to know of someone whose sabbatical from recording is self-imposed as opposed to court-mandated or a good old-fashioned case of craziness. D'Angelo and Lauryn, I'm looking at you. 

In any case, like every other Badu album, New AmErykah starts off with a cautionary tale that is all '70s funk and cryptic messages about the American dream as too many may know it: lust, greed, and self-hatred. It sort of sounds like a sped-up version of this old Sesame Street cartoon

From this point on, the references to the Nation of Islam ("Me"), Rastafarianism (Madlib-produced "The Healer"), and The Khemetic Legacy ("Twinkle") continue, but the messages can get lost in the music if you want them to. To Badu's credit, much of this album manages to sound like something you've heard before (her cover of Eddie Kendricks' "People Get Ready" on her "My People"), yet something ahead of its time simultaneously. A good case in point is her track "That Hump." Slow and steady, almost to the point of sounding screwed if it weren't for the bluesy organ, Erykah talks of wishing she could get over the hump of living check to check and just fly away. 

Erykah Badu: "That Hump"



Speaking of flying away, Erykah also shines on personal favorite "Telephone," which is about the death of a loved one and her wishing him to "Fly away/ To heaven, brother/ Save a place for me." It is truly a haunting and beautiful track that I'm assuming is about J Dilla's untimely demise two years ago. You hear Erykah letting out something particularly deep emotionally as she sings the last word on this track, and draws it out until her breath is almost gone. The result is organic and heartfelt. Touching indeed. 

Erykah Badu: "Telephone"



Another personal fave is "The Cell" which spins a web of intrigue surrounding what sounds like a standoff between a crackhead and the police. Sort of like The Wire, if set to music. Really funky music. This beat on this track reminds me again of something I've heard before, namely "Contusion" from Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life and "I'm Digging You Like An Old Soul Record" from Meshell Ndegeocello's debut album Plantation Lullabies

Erykah Badu: "The Cell"



Thankfully, Erykah forgoes the cameo-studded album route that several of her contemporaries have resorted to which only served to these artists' detriment. She does, however, have guest appearances from fellow Soulquarian Bilal Oliver, as well as production credits from the aforementioned Madlib as well as 9th Wonder. Longtime-musical director James Poyser's sound is ever-present on this album as it was on the previous ones. Poyser's presence helps the listener to have an anchor to hold on to as many of the songs have transitions and segues that add, rather than deflect, from the original composition. Check "Master Teacher" to hear this in action. 

Erykah Badu feat. Bilal: "Master Teacher"




This album, while experimental-sounding at times and full of politically leftist viewpoints, is truly a testament to her talent that Erykah is able to capture the interest of so many who really have no idea what she may be talking about. It is often said that music helps one's message go down smoother than if it were merely spoken. I'm sure this was Erykah's intent. Whether the masses will catch on to her lessons is left to be seen, but in the end, the groove will be all that matters. 

Much as how this album began is much the way it ends. The super-crime fighting/70's blaxploitation music fades back in, and after a slight pause, "Honey," the first single from the album, starts to play. This song seems very out of place on this album, especially with its feel-good message of "I'm in love wit' you." Perhaps this signals a hint as to what New AmErykah Part Two: Return of The Ankh will sound like. Knowing Erykah, now five albums deep into a eleven-year career, the world may never know. But we'll all bump it just the same. 



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13 Responses

  1. I'm so excited! I can't wait to get this album. Welcome Back Badi! We missed you!

  2. Dope indeed.... If only I can understand the words/language in the middle of Twinkle... I'd be aiight!
    This has to be the dopest Badu CD yet... or if not, I put this at the top right up there with Mama's Gun...
    Well said!

  3. I live in Canada and we don't get 'New Amerykah' until next week (and they just said so today)! I am so pissed! Thanks for posting some of the tracks to give me a sample. ill Mami, you've just given an Erykah stan his fix.

  4. I've been listening to it for a few days, and every time I reach "Soldier" I gotta replay. The beat is so steady and it just takes you into this zone. I play it for my 6th grade students and they start doing this march-dance that suits the track so well. I love that they have embraced the song because it immediately made me think of them and their future selves. We also like Master Teacher because we have the an ongoing "nigga"/"king"/"God" debate going on in the classroom. And when I heard Georgia's voice on Master Teacher, I let out a little shout of joy.
    I look at all five of my Badu CDs and I just smile. They're all so complete and all have managed to speak to me on many levels. And the best part is that there's more to come and it's coming soon!!!!

  5. @ Ironic:
    Happy to help you out with your Badu fix. I didn't know albums were released later in Canada!
    @ Bianca:
    I was waiting for someone to mention Georgia Anne Muldrow on "Master Teacher!"

  6. "That Hump" is a fave so far. The last part, especially.

  7. @ ill Mami:
    Not all of them are---most of them aren't---but unfortunately for me, this one was.
    "Telephone" is my track so far. I love it. Beautiful.

  8. Just got off this listserv where folks were skeptical about buying the cd based on the NY Times Review. *sigh*
    I hear ya Nova. That's my fave too. Should be Master Teacher...but...
    NA also my fave next to Mama's Gun.
    Excellent review Ill Mami. Those were the exact emotions I experienced in that order.
    Let me go link this up. I leave the real reviewing to the experts.

  9. @ Vivrant Thang:
    Just saw the NYT review.
    Although it's their writer's job to be as objective as possible, it's obvious that reviewer wasn't a stan. LOL

  10. The NYT review wasn't that bad and I actually agree with a lot of what he said. It's very true that her songs seem to get a little self-indulgent and lengthy, just like they did on WU and THAT'S WHY I LIKE IT. A friend of mine (a soul singer, incidentally) was saying how he wished Badu and Meshell would go back to basic song structure. Badu doesn't work that way for me; it's why I hated Baduizm. You gotta let her live in that music and do what she's gonna do. She does these things with purpose.

  11. This review/personal perspective of Erykah Badu's new album New Amerykah is absolutely brilliant. I can't believe how a person that I have never met could take my thoughts, views, opinions on one of my absolute FAVORITE soul artists and articulate my thoughts into such a coherent and broad persepctive. This is amazing to me. I think you are right on every level and I love Ms. Badu for being herself, for taking her spirituality and putting it into music. I actually get chills when I hear her voice and listen to her messages over the beats. The melodies, the deeper meanings to her words and lyrics, its all overwhelming and because I am a lover of music, especially of those that don't conform to the cookie cutter formula for what makes a great album...I'm absolutely thrilled that there is soneone that feels the same. I believe this album is a classic, much like her other ones have been for me but this one is extremely important and people need to wake up and open their minds. Listening to the end of "Twinkle" I KNEW without a doubt the language was Kemetic (Egyptian) don't ask me how I knew but the sounds that were formed told me this was so. I am a lover of all things Egyptian and study ancient civilizations and languages on my own just becuase I seek the knowledge time. I was thrilled to know I wasn't mistaken. Thank you for putting your thoughts and opinion in a medium where people like myself can read and appreciate your efforts.

  12. Hello every one! Let me first start off by saying that I am truly blessed and I pray that those of you here can say the same!
    This is the very first "Erykah Badu" album I've ever purchased and it probably was the best decision I've made in the past few days! Lol!
    I don't want to give up too much information about myself, but I'm a 24 year old black male from Decatur, Ga. I'm aspiring to be a rap artist and have been for a many years now. As I get older I'm beginning to become more aware of the lyrics I write. I wouldn't compare my style of rap to be in the same realm as artist like, "Common" or "Mos Def". But I realize now, that I can create music just like "Young Jeezy", Lil'Wayne, T.I., Jay-z, Nas, B.I.G., and Tupac without being so degrading towards my people! Some of the artist I just named above probably are or were very conscience individuals at heart, but commercialism has a way of making artist loose themselves. These artist are so influential, and sometimes I wonder if they know how much what they say does affect the people that listen to them. I'm searching for that balance in my music....where I can be me, but be more mindful of my audience.
    I know most of you could care less about me since we are here to discuss Erykah's new album, but that's the point I'm getting to! Like I said earlier, "New Amerykah" is the first album of hers that I've purchased, though, I have been a fan of hers since she first dropped. It's just so good to hear a black woman say some of the things Erykah says in her music. She sparks new insights into the minds of people like myself that you wouldn't expect to see or hear vibe to her music.
    She is a beautiful black woman on so many levels other than the physical and I wish more black women saw the world through her eyes! Regardless of how you feel.... life is hard for us black folks and we strive to make it the best way we know how. I just wish we could get back to that village mentality of looking out for one another. "Each one, Teach one" right? Isn't that how the saying goes? I just think Ms. Badu is an exceptional talent and I thank her for being a voice. At least I know that there's a black woman out here that feels my pain, but more importantly, she wants to help me ease it! That's enough motivation for me to keep on pushing no matter what I choose to do with my life. "If" I make it doesn't even hold up as a question! It's only a matter of "when" I make it....... now!
    God bless!



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