Universal Motown's multi-platinum-selling, Grammy awardwinning singer/songwriter/actress Erykah Badu returns to the music scene with her new album "New Amerykah" featuring the debut single "Honey". Laced with Erykah's blue... more »sy grit and MC style vocals, the song is bolstered by producer's 9th Wonder's razor sharp hip hop beats. Badu describes the song as "an old school track with some funk on it." The release of "Honey" on November 20th also marks Badu's 10th year in the music industry. To celebrate, the gifted trendsetter prepares the release of her much anticipated new album on her birthday, February 26th. Badu has enlisted some of the most talented, groundbreaking underground producers and engineers in the hip-hop game to support her breakthrough return, including Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Nas, Mary J. Blige), Madlib, Mike "Chav" Chavarria and R&B singer Bilal. A special, 12-inch pink wax edition will be available only to DJ's next month and will feature underground tracks, "The Healer" and "Real Thang." "The music is the star," says Erykah, "I just laid down my vocals and let the music breathe while the melodies tell the stories." This album is part one of the series New Amerykah Part 1&2.« less
Universal Motown's multi-platinum-selling, Grammy awardwinning singer/songwriter/actress Erykah Badu returns to the music scene with her new album "New Amerykah" featuring the debut single "Honey". Laced with Erykah's bluesy grit and MC style vocals, the song is bolstered by producer's 9th Wonder's razor sharp hip hop beats. Badu describes the song as "an old school track with some funk on it." The release of "Honey" on November 20th also marks Badu's 10th year in the music industry. To celebrate, the gifted trendsetter prepares the release of her much anticipated new album on her birthday, February 26th. Badu has enlisted some of the most talented, groundbreaking underground producers and engineers in the hip-hop game to support her breakthrough return, including Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Nas, Mary J. Blige), Madlib, Mike "Chav" Chavarria and R&B singer Bilal. A special, 12-inch pink wax edition will be available only to DJ's next month and will feature underground tracks, "The Healer" and "Real Thang." "The music is the star," says Erykah, "I just laid down my vocals and let the music breathe while the melodies tell the stories." This album is part one of the series New Amerykah Part 1&2.
"Erykah Badu's new single "Honey" is a catchy upbeat retro funk ditty which still manages to sound contemporary. It's so joyful, no wonder it was picked as the lead-off single for her third studio album proper (though I felt her brilliant "Worldwide underground" was more than just an EP). However, those looking for more of the same on "New Amerykah part 1: World war 4" (the first of a planned trilogy) will be sorely disappointed as nothing else on the CD sounds like it. Maybe that is why "Honey" gets tucked as a hidden track at the end of the CD.
Erykah is like the Radiohead of Soul music. After her introduction to the world on the multi platinum, multi Grammy winning "Baduizm", she went off on a different tangent, largely eschewing regular song structure for loose but intricately structured musical movements, and cerebral, often indiscernible lyrics.
Her new 11 track CD is even more off kilter and uncommercial. It can best be described as a futuristic fusion of funk and jazz beamed from Mars, and I'm sure her record label Motown must have done the same head scratching it did ages ago when Marvin Gaye presented his magnum opus "What's going on" for release. To fully appreciate it, one has to put aside expectations of regular song structure and just go with the flow.
Opening cut "Amerykhan promise" sounds like the soundtrack to some seventies blaxploitation movie with alternating male narration and female harmonies set to a funky bassline and interspersed with horns. One can almost see the women with their huge afros and platforms going "I promise, I promise". "The healer/hip hop" has a haunting feel with chiming triangles, an echoing choir, and lyrics proclaiming hip hop to be "bigger than religion or the government".
The autobiographical "Me" is one of the more straightforward sounding songs (sprawling and lacking a formal chorus, as does almost every other song); muted sax gently floating against a breezy seventies Marvin Gaye sound, and deeply personal lyrics like "Had two babies, different dudes/ and thought for both my love was true ... hey, that's me.", ending in a vocals/sax duet.
"My people" is a hypnotic sounding song with a skeletal groove, gentle percussion, tribal sounding chants and sparse singing extorting black people to "keep on moving on", with a brief Martin Luther King excerpt ending it. Another more easily accessible song is "Soldier" with rumbling hip hop beats, ghostly harmonising and lyrics touching on black on black violence, Katrina and other issues, while some male vocal exclaims "Uh" and "Hah" intermittently. "The cell" is jazz fusion with semi spoken lyrics touching on a "mama hopped up on cocaine" and ending acappella.
"Twinkle" rumbles along gently with skittery beats and a constant twinkling sound, electronic effects and disembodied harmonies, the final two or so minutes of the almost seven minutes is spent with some male voice telling us of the dire state of the times (after some strange voice speaking in what sounds somewhat like South African click, or is it a transmission from Mars??) against an eerie string backdrop. Talk about off kilter!
"Master teacher" is a woozy, psychedelic sounding groove which shifts tempo midway into a lilting piano sprinkled jazz piece with subtle electronic flourishes. "That hump" is a shimmery sounding midtempo song with a creeping bassline, a chorus of sorts, and a very nice horn sprinkled Motown-like bridge. The meandering eight minute long "Telephone" is a tribute to the late producer J Dilla. "Just fly away to heaven brother, make a place for me" she sings against a gently floating jazzy backdrop (dreamy harmonies, gentle hand percussion, and fleeting horns with muted hand claps coming in towards the final two minutes).
This CD might be bewildering at first, there is simply nothing else out there that sounds like it, but it is one that with time some will go, "Oh, now I get it!" while others never will. I see this making many end of year best album lists (it's on mine already), as well as Ms Badu making some more room in her Grammy cabinet. "
Truly "New" Amerykah.
WILLIE A YOUNG II | Houston, TX. | 03/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the kind of work that will initially confuse and confound a lot of fans but will be hailed a masterpiece years from now. Well...I'm not waiting that long. "4th World War" is the deepest, most organically funky album Ms. Badu has produced yet and it finally does something I was beginning to lose hope of ever happening; it raises the bar! R&B is usually a big yawn to me with copycat divas, generic crooners and phony 'neo soulsters' flooding the market with a glut of pedestrian, unlistenable works, so it's extremely pleasant to hear an already established and popular artist take some risks and produce an unconventional, loosely structured, ridiculously brilliant and crafty work from deep inside her mind, by sheer will, it just works. Mind you, "4th World War" isn't just great because it's different; it's great because it covers a myriad of topics (love, hate, paranoia, depression, war, sexism, addiction, love for hip-hop, aging, maturity) at such a blinding pace and without being preachy that the happy listener feels both exhausted and exhilarated after the experience. Erykah has done it again. Don't miss this one! A Masterpiece."
steph | united kingdom | 02/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"WOW!! This album has had so many mixed reviews, from what i've seen online. If people understand Erykah, they will know that she is NOT your everyday kinda woman! She is a deep,sacred,virtuous, unique black woman on a WHOOOOOLE other level, and she is on her journey to even higher, spiritual, creative heights, both personally and musically, and boy am i travelling with her!! lol... I'm loving this album!! i guess being an old soul helps (i'm 25 and LOVE 70s funk, from vicki anderson to james brown, and classic soul) and i also love Madlib's beats from the albums he has out at the moment, and the work he did with Madvillan. The man's a genius! And of course i'm a huge neo-soul fan :).. I just can't wait to listen to it some more, so i can delve into the lyrics and even more of the production! I'm loving the whole album, but especially 'me', 'soldier', 'the cell' (man what a beat!), master teacher, honey and telephone..
This is MOST DEFINITELY different from her previous albums, so i wouldn't advise anyone who hasn't listened to it yet, to listen to it with her previous work in mind! If you're a commercial head, u won't like this album or 'get' it, SIMPLE lol.. You'll only like 'honey' lol, but if you're a deep neo soul/alternative/funk lover, u will luv it!.. If you're an Erykah fan and disappointed with this album, after a few more listens i think u will begin to feel it, especially if u embrace her individuality! :)..
At the end of the day, it all depends on your personal musical tastes and also by viewing Erykah for MORE than just the music, and not to 'pigeon-hole' her music, and by capturing her essence as a person and the essence of her music, and understanding and appreciating that people grow and change..."
Revolutionary, Futuristic, Soulful and Creative
T. Echols | Atlanta, GA | 02/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Okay people, now you know Erykah doesn't obide by the rules, she creates them on her spiritual/soulful/creative journey. I've been waiting for this CD since Worldwide Underground and I must admit, Erykah had me scratching my head so hard, that I needed dandruff shampoo ;-) Her new style kinda reminds me of "Jamiroquai", the European artist that I adore.
I knew Erykah was gonna come out with something totally different and I knew I wouldn't catch it with the first listen. As I was driving my kids to school, I was like is this what I've been waiting for because the only songs that stood out were "Telephone" and "Me" so I played them over and over until I arrived at the J-O-B!!
But "LAWD" on the way home, the light started to shine and I'm lovin' Me, Soldier, That Hump, Telephone, Twinkle and Honey. I must say, I wished she show cased her vocals a lil more, but everyone knows that E Badu can get down like James Brown with the vocal range. Like the other guy said, you can't be into mainstream music and love this CD because it will go straight over your head. E Badu is my favorite artist and you really can't compare her to anyone but herself. This is what she was born to do and how many artist can take years off and still have people biting their nails for the next CD.
Erykah, keep doin' you and whether it's good or bad you must be doing somthing right, because they can't stop talkin' about you. As long as you and Jill Scott are in the industry, I'll always have something to look forward to.
We love ya chick! "
Olukayode Balogun | Leeds, England | 03/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Erykah Badu serves up a cocktail of 70s funky soul, hip-hop and jazz over which she sings her songs of truth - songs that some might find challenging. It's a slight change of direction for Badu in the sense that there is a more edgy, political style to her lyrics on this one. She reminds me in places of the group Undisputed Truth who were pretty radical back in the day.
I've always had love for the lady. Her 1997 debut Baduizm was an almost orgasmic blend of solid hip-hop beats and deep modern soul vibes but she has since steadfastly refused to return to the formula that gave her huge commercial success and essentially put her indelible mark on the musical map. I was saying to someone just recently, that I have the utmost respect for any artiste who does what she wants to do, as opposed to what everyone else is doing or what might make good radio, good sales or whatever. More people should be like her. I'll take authentic over popular any day as long as I like how it sounds, no matter how "wierd" or "strange" the masses might think it is.
Well, she's definitely doing what she wants to do on this one. Artistically, I think it's courageous, authentic and admirable. Commercially though, while I'm pretty sure no one knows it more than the lady herself, I think it's a bit of a gamble. But what do I know? The album entered the Billboard Top 200 at a very respectable #2 and currently stands at #6. She's in at #2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (but for Janet's Discipline, she probably would have entered at #1) so right now, the gamble seems to be paying off. (Whatever favour she might find in the charts here in the UK will not be evident until tomorrow).
Among my personal favourites are the blaxploitation era-styled opener, "Amerykahn Promise", produced by Roy Ayers, Edwin Birdsong & William Allen and featuring vocals by Ramp; the message-laden "The Healer", produced by Madlib; the very personal mid-tempo shuffler "Me", produced by Badu & Shafiq Husayn and featuring horns by Roy Hargrove; "Soldier", another song with a message, produced by Badu & Kariem Riggins and featuring guest vocals by Bilal; the utterly funky, bass-driven "The Cell" (another message!), again produced by Badu & Husayn; "Telephone", the beautiful ballad tribute to J Dilla (she also gave him a shout on "The Healer") produced by Badu, James Poyser and Ahmir '? Luv' Thompson and of course, the 9th Wonder-produced 'bonus track' (and lead single) "Honey" - though I have to admit; the song, when I first heard it on disc, did not have the same impact that it did when I first saw the video.
One or two of the songs don't work for me at all; the first half of "Master Teacher" is a good example, though the jazzy second half of the song more than makes up for it. "That Hump" is another. It's just a bit too untidy for my liking. The song was born out of a jam session, apparently. It shows. The album as a whole takes time to appreciate but is well worth it once you get there.
A wee bit of trivia: the songs on this album are not all the lengths stated on the CD back cover. "Amerykahn Promise", for instance, is 4mins 16secs long (and not the 3:40 noted); "Me" is 5mins 36secs long (not 4:24); "Soldier", 5mins 3secs (not 3:55); "The Cell", 4mins 20secs (not 3:36); "Twinkle", with its emotional but totally on-point tirade towards the end, 6mins 56secs (not 4:02) and "Master Teacher" is 6mins 47secs long (not 3:37). There may be other examples on here; I didn't have the time to check all 11 songs. It's probably an unimportant detail but I wonder what the deal is? Oversight or intentional error? Another message? Does anyone know? "