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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.

Rating: 5 / 10

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’

Rating: 5 / 10
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