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

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Erykah Badu recently described herself as a live musician who makes records on the side. Her new album, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) sounds like one extended jam session. Which is to say, it's vibrant, soulful odyssey. Badu's musicality really shines on this album. Mama's Gun was all about placement and elegant beats. This album is all about layers. Multiple vocal tracks, keyboard blips, layers of melodies one on top of the each other like someone who just learned how to use Garageband. And it turns out Badu just did.

Which is in no way an indictment of this album. It's an amazing mix of politics and personality. Held together by Badu's irrepressible joie de vivre. Just listen to "Master Teacher" where Badu weaves a Marvin Gaye sample through her percussive chorus (no one living mixes beats and melody with their voice as well as Badu): "What if there were no niggers / only master teachers?" Badu's pretty damn legendary, but she's not resting on her laurels. As resident goddess of the Soulquarians (w. D'Angelo, ?uestlove, and J Dilla [RIP]) Badu's made a name for herself and with the other members, pioneered most of the great hip-hop from the late-90s to the turn of the millennium. And if you still don't think she's inspirational just listen to Common's seminal album Like Water for Chocolate, which he wrote while dating Badu.

But there's something so timely in this album that shows that Badu's not just trying to revive the Soulquarian mystique. New Amerykah draws from her past work and takes it into a digital age. She's totally at home in this new sound. And tho it's taken 5 yrs to get to this new album. It was worth the wait.


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