Filed under: Issue 22, Issue 22 Reviews | Tags: 9th Wonder, Erykah Badu, J Dilla, james poyser, jfk, john f. kennedy, Ndugu and the chocolate jam co., new amerykah part 1 4th world war, new amerykah part 2 return of the ankh, window seat
Part of our Issue 22 coverage!
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts
PREVIEW: CLICK here to visit Erykah Badu‘s Myspace
No stranger to love, Erykah Badu releases the second part of her New Amerykah series. New Amerykah Part Two (Return of Ankh) is juxtaposed with 2008’s New Amerykah Part One (4th World War). Moving away from the predecessor’s digital production and political nuances, Part Two uses more samples and live instrumentation while focusing on the subject matter of love and relationships.
Badu assembles a decent album with a mix of both electric and traditionally soulful sounds surfaces. The topics of holding on, adultery and even romantic wariness in “Fall in Love (Your Funeral),” touch on the different sentiments that often accompany intimacy. Thematically though, the album begins to get repetitive.
The 9th Wonder-produced track “20 Feet Tall,” opens the album. It starts off with a ballooning, theremin-esque sound and transitions into a mellow piano ballad. Badu sings about being shut out of love and not knowing why. Keyboard notes in the background hold the song together, adding cohesion despite their understated tune.
Badu picks it up with James Poyser as her production partner in the second track, “Window Seat.” Running at a higher tempo than its predecessor, the production draws the listener in with a clean chord progression and a smooth, unobtrusive baseline. The lyrics unfortunately fall flat, though. Badu pleads, “I need you to want me, I need you to miss me, I need your attention… Come back to me.” The controversy raised by the music video in which Badu strips at the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination does not fit with the cliché-heavy content of the lyrics.
Nevertheless, the album’s love songs explore positive moods. “Umm hmm,” produced by Madlib takes a more optimistic tone on love, choosing to highlight the exciting beginning of a relationship instead of a tragic end. Samples from “Take Some Time” by Ndugu & The Chocolate Jam Co. help the song’s lyrics and instrumentation to push its hopeful tone.
“Love” follows it, with guest producer J Dilla infusing the track with a hint of funk. There’s a great throwback aesthetic at work on the track, although the composition as a whole repeat the same mistakes as the rest of the album – having polished style and production – but lacking the lyrical prowess that Badu has demonstrated in the past.
What Badu creates is a fairly one-dimensional album that harps on true love without succeeding at capturing its listener. However, the distinctive production and impressive collaborations help redeem the album’s less inspired moments, guaranteed to give it appeal whether you’re falling out of love or just trying to start anew.
BY Devanshi Tripathi