Fans have been anticipating Erykah Badu’s fifth studio album, New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh (eternal life, or for Badu, the return of a what makes her Badu), since she released Part I in 2008. It has been worth the wait and has immediately arrested attention.
The video for the first single Window Seat resulted in Badu pleading not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct following scenes of nudity filmed in her hometown of Dallas. The promo ends with her receiving a fatal gunshot in scenes reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.
Her motives for courting controversy were almost buried as people assumed it was a mere publicity stunt but Badu who debuted in 1997, with Baduizm, is not just another scantily clad female singer.
The video was designed to disrobe the issue of ‘group think’ where individuality is lost and conformity is found. This album is more emotional – created at a time when she became pregnant with her third child and found love with rapper Jay Electronica. New Amerykah, Part I was born amid the more political context of the Obama election campaign, yet Badu’s lyrics continue to be deep – laced with social implications and observations.
Some of the standout tracks for me were Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY), which contains an interpolation of Can’t Turn Me Away, by Sylvia Strippling and pays homage to Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s hit Get Money. Despite the number of times the break has been used, Badu manages to make it sound as fresh as the original release.
Gone baby, Don’t be Long, the old school flavoured Umm Hmm and Love, Fall in Love (which samples “Intimate Friends” by Eddie Kendricks) sound like the audio equivalent of cream – rich and flavoursome. The caliber of production is as high as one would expect with the likes of Grammy winners 9th Wonder and James Poyser and the late J Dilla among the credits. The jazzy Out Of My Mind Just in Time recalled Green Eyes and just how beautifully Badu delivers a love song.
Badu is known for being versatile and as aptly as her vocals saunter amid soul and jazz instrumentals, she just as well synchronizes with a hip-hop beat and the web only bonus track Jump In The Air featuring Lil Wayne and Bilal, provides the perfect edge to the track list, complementing the nods to Notorious B.I.G.
The album is a sonic experience, which indulges in a smorgasbord of live instrumentation from harps to strings to theremins, which all, serve to envelope the eardrums. A delight from start to finish…can’t wait for the live show to see the Ankh in full force!
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