Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One (2008)

Erykah Badu
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It's no secret that Erykah Badu is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking artists of the past decade. Ever since her 1997 classic debut, Baduizm, this Dallas native has marched to beat of her own drum. You just never know what she will bring to the table and the beauty of it is that no matter what, she always brings food for thought that satisfies the need for good music. On her latest endeavor, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), Badu continues to trail her own musical path and delivers another solid project.

It's no secret that Erykah Badu is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking artists of the past decade. Ever since her 1997 classic debut, Baduizm, this Dallas native has marched to beat of her own drum. You just never know what she will bring to the table and the beauty of it is that no matter what, she always brings food for thought that satisfies the need for good music. On her latest endeavor, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), Badu continues to trail her own musical path and delivers another solid project.

The album kicks into high gear with the opening track, "Amerykhan Promise." This is a straight-up funk jam that takes it back to the days of Parliament-Funkadelic with a tight horn arrangement, a groovy wah-wah guitar, and Badu's layered vocals sounding as if she's harmonizing with the Brides of Funkenstein. "The Healer," produced by Madlib, gives homage to the power of hip-hop with a shout-out to former collaborator J-Dilla (who passed away in 2006) that is sure to make the heads nod. "Everything around you see/ the Ankhs, the wraps, the plus degrees/ and yes even the mysteries/ it's all me" goes the first verse to the Sa-Ra produced "Me." Here, Badu speaks as if she's telling us that regardless of what you think about her, she is who she is and offers no apologies. She delivers a very powerful message about the pitfalls of drugs in "The Cell" and continues the vibe as Bilal and Georgia Anne Muldrow, a singer and musician in her own right, contribute their talents to "Master Teacher." As the disc comes to a close, Badu tells us to "please stay tuned for New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)" before launching into her hit single, "Honey." Produced by 9th Wonder, this cut is classic Badu. The accompanying video is set in a record store and from the perspective of a customer browsing the racks. The various records shown are parodies of popular records which feature altered titles and Badu portraying the artist instead such as Labelle's Chameleon, Minnie Riperton's Perfect Angel, and of course, Funkadelic's Maggot Brain.

Erykah Badu never ceases to amaze and on New Amerykah, and she illustrates why she is the musical version of Jean-Michel Basquiat: Painting lyrical portraits that challenges the listener to think and feel with an open mind. She continues to weave unusual musical influences together creating a rich texture of sound and the results are spellbinding. Part One of this double disc set is excellent and a must have for admirers of Badu.  She definitely leaves you anticipating Part Two, which is scheduled to arrive in July of 2008. Highly recommended. 

By Christopher Whaley

 
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