Friday, March 07, 2008

New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

Erykah Badu
New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

I don't really listen to much contemporary R&B, but I was intrigued enough by Erykah Badu's new album to pick it up, mostly because it features production by Madlib, and also because Sound Opinions gave it rave reviews.

I like this album for two slightly contradictory reasons: it references classic soul and funk, and it embraces modern hip hop. I guess that's not really that contradictory, especially since she works with hip hop producers who are well-known for mining the crates and reworking dusty funk and jazz records. Madlib's work is understated and blunted out as usual, and both "The Healer/Hip Hop" and "My People" develop musical ideas/samples he unleashed on his first "Beat Konducta" album.

The funky breaks wouldn't be enough if the songwriting wasn't up to snuff, and it is. She's dealing with violence, war, poverty, and getting older. She is at turns down to earth and totally out there, playing up both her Billie Holiday comparisons and her more recent stoner witch manifestations. It is a trippy, challenging records, switching from the Funkadelic-like opening track to the neo-soul of "Soldier" to the freaky ""Cell." If I have one complaint, it is that it isn't always a smooth listen, and can be jarring at times. Just like most good art.

It's also sold a ton of copies, which is impressive. I'm always happy when good music is also popular.

She is supposed to release the follow up later this year, which is a little soon considering she released her last full album eight years ago. Whatever- as Lil' Wayne has shown, when you are on a creative tear, you just have to go with it.

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