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New Amerykah, Part 1: The 4th World War
Veteran hip hop soul princess Erykah Badu's newest creative contribution is ambitious, but lacks the smoothness and cohesive feel of her previous work.
Lauren Murphy, 25 Mar 2008
Although still only 37-years-old, Erykah Badu is a bit of an elder stateswoman of modern soul and hip-hop music. With her 1997 debut Baduizm, she basically redefined a genre that was in dire need of a firm arse-kicking – but contrarily delivered it by stripping R&B of its ostentatious extras, and taking a more simple approach to soul.
Having said that, the woman born Erica Wright has always incorporated a certain degree of lavishness into her music – whether it’s through abandoning her ‘slave name’, prominently assimilating African culture into her work, or collaborating with a multitude of disparate artists (The Roots, Burning Spear, etc).
Her latest project, a two- (possibly three-) part series of albums, is no different. New Amerykah: Part 1 – surprisingly, only her third full-length album – is ambitious in concept, but ultimately scrappy in tone and cohesion. This could be due in part to the bounteous number of producers on display (Madlib, a hip-hop innovator in his own right, takes the reins on several tracks); but the songs themselves – attempts at social commentary and political skits, many of them – seem like half-formed ideas that are brought to fruition neither musically nor lyrically.
Key Track: ‘Honey’