on February 26, 2008
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.
on March 8, 2008
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.
on February 28, 2008
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...
on March 9, 2008
Let me start off by saying I am a HUGE Erykah's fan. In a world of blandness and crappy songs, Erykah is one of those artists that will use music to challenge you. She is inspiring, different, creative, daring, unpredictable and a saver of soul music. On this record, I don't know what Erykah is trying to do. I usually love kilter and uncommercial music by Erykah...but I am really at lost with this project.
The album starts off with "Amerykhan promise". Despite its weirdness, this is one of the few tracks I dig. The song sounds like it came from a soundtrack to a 70s blaxploitation movie. Erykah is trading lines with a male narrator and the bassline and horns are blaring. This song will surely cause some religion folks to sit up because Erykah is basically saying hip hop is "bigger than religion or the government".
The song "Me" is autobiographical and deeply personal. Erykah gives us a look into her world as she confronts some of the decisions she has made in her life. This song basically tells us to accept her for who she is and nothing else because she is comfortable in her skin. The music can be described as a smooth jazz set to 70s soul.
Erykah's "Honey" is retro-contemporary funk song that sounds out of place on this strange project. It's probably the only song that is radio-friendly, which explains why it is a hidden track and is the first single.
"The cell" (jazz), "Master teacher" (psychedelic) "That hump" (crazy bassline), and "Soldier" (great message) deserves special recognition from me. However, it took MULTIPLE listenings for me to understand these songs.
As for "My people" and the other songs, I probably will never like (and trust me, I have tried). However, I don't consider this cd a lost cause. Erykah plays by her own rules and this is why I respect her so much. So I will say this to Ms. Badu, even though I am struggling with this project please keep challenging and provoking us with your music.
on March 15, 2008
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?
on February 27, 2008
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!
on March 4, 2008
It only took one listen to "Me" and I was hooked. I like this new direction and sound from Erykah, which demonstrates her unique and independent thoughts and sounds in an artful manner. This album definitely strays away from the Erykah releases of the past. I haven't had a chance to listen to every track on the album and that may take awhile since I haven't stopped listening and enjoying "Me", which has a jazzy mezmerizing beat accompanied by jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove. I have listened to "Telephone", which also has a really nice, rich bass sound underscored by Erykah's soft and inspirational lyrics dedicated to Dilla (see CD jacket information for more details). This CD so far is great to me; however, it may not be for everyone, and especially those seeking the same old or not very accepting of an artist exploring new ground. It is definitely not for listeners with narrow musical interest or those that tend to lean toward one musical genre. I am prepared and ready for Part Two and hope it also contains jazz, rock, funk and R&B elements.
on March 5, 2008
I have to at admit it took a minute for WorldWide Underground to grow on me but once it did (had to play it real loud)...I was hooked...and Mama's Gun is one of best cd's ever made...def in my all around top 10...This New Amerykah Pt 1 didn't take long...I knew to play it real loud...Its rocking from the 1st cut to the last...
Badu is an artist ...underground...dope beats...ever changing but remaining the same...true to her art...if ya don't get it then ya just won't...
I love Badu...she has a great spirit and keeps it funky...
Like I said if you don't like this cd than it wasn't for you...
With NEW AMERYKAH, PT. 1: 4th WORLD WAR, Hip-hop/neo-soul star Erykah Badu brings R&B to sonic proportions. Anyone who has been following Badu since 1997's brilliant debut BADUIZM knows that Ms. Badu is certainly not your "typical" R&B star. Badu is rich in the influence of the mystical, spirituality outside of what most would deem "normal" conventions, which has always translated into her music. Combine this with a five year hiatus (2003's WORLDWIDE UNDERGROUND EP was her last release) and heightened sense of politics, and you get the chanteuse's most colorful and most puzzling album, 2008's NEW AMERYKAH. No surprise, most people won't understand it, even following several listens. Critics will both adore it while others will practically "damn it to hell". Either way, this is an innovative, creative endeavor on the part of Ms. Badu.
The album starts off with a bang with the funky "Amerykahn Promise" which is less about singing and more about Ms. Badu's political ruminations. To call it a strong vocal performance would be an overstatement, but it certainly does make a statement - whatever that statement may be. "The Healer/Hip Hop" is a certified hit, one of Ms. Badu's best. The production is first rate and Badu's lazy, Billie Holiday influenced vocals are stronger than ever as she croons "this one is the healer, hip Hop". She also namechecks the late J-Dilla in this awesome track. "Me" keeps up the speed and is perhaps the most mainstream track up to this point. Think mainstream Erykah when you listen to "Me" as opposed to artsy, indulgent Erykah. Three tracks in, NEW AMERYKAH is certainly something to talk about.
"My People" throws another curve ball. It begins with a radio broadcaster stating "I'm a bad motherf***** and I don't mind telling you". Then Erykah mumbles through a repetitive hook ("my people") with a few inserted ad libs. Not exactly conventional, but interesting to say the least, which is the general sentiment of NEW AMERYKAH. "Soldier" brings Erykah back to the mainstream for one of the album's strongest tracks. The production is conventional and Erykah sounds top notch. On "The Cell", Badu experiments once more, but she combines the best of the experimental and the accessible here, which makes it much better than say "My People".
"Twinkle" is another experimental track, but it is effective, if not stellar. "Master Teacher" is truly political in which Erykah mentions anti-slave sentiment making parallels to the past. "That Hump" is another five-star track in which Badu has never sounded better. Erykah sings her head off on this one and the production is ingenius. "That Hump" is followed up by the excellent "Telephone". NEW AMERYKAH is definitely more foward steps than back steps, despite how odd it really is. Finally, standout first single "Honey" shows up, albeit a bonus track. As strong as it is, there are tracks just a strong as "Honey" if not stronger. If you tend to favor more mainstream Erykah, "Honey" and similar tracks such as "Me" or "Soldier" will be more up your alley.
While NEW AMERYKAH isn't perfect, it is nearly, even if it is in some sonic facet as opposed to a mainstream R&B facet. It is more experimental than neo-soul, though there is plenty of soulful backdrops coupled with hip-hop sensibilities to grap onto. Honestly, I had to listen through NEW AMERYKAH before I could truly begin to understand it or even hope to review. With that said, this album is one that could possibly stand the test of time where innovation and such is concerned. A bit over the top sometimes, but genius always in my opinion. 4 stars.
on February 28, 2008
I have read the reviews that stated that they hate this CD but if you have been a follower of Ms. Badu, U should have known that she is not the type of artist that will give U something that fits tightly with what is going on commercially in music. She is an artist blazing her own trail...thank God...This CD is simply brilliant. From the opening track "Amerykahn Promise" to the closing track "Honey," (which is the most commercial song on the CD) this is a CD you will have to LISTEN to a few spins to digest where she is coming from these days. Blending hip hop with funk with R&B soul with social commentary can be quite daunting to figure out for the casual listener. But the ease that she has done it on this CD is a testament to Ms. Badu talent. Listen to the hip-hop/soul kissed "Solider" or the three part "Master Teacher" featuring Bilal will make U say why can't we get music with this much depth on the radio. For those individuals who didn't get it the first time out, listen to the CD again and OPEN YOUR MIND and let the groove capture your imagination. Thank U Ms. Badu for creating the first off the hook CD for 2008. The terms "classic" and "masterpiece" are sometimes used to loosely but I can't help but feel that 10 years from now, this CD will be praise as being classic/masterpiece...don't sleep on this experience.