Monday, March 10, 2008

Rhythmic Review: Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War

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I know plenty of you are wondering, why on earth am i just posting my review for Erykahs new album when it came out nearly 2 weeks ago? Well, its taken me THAT LONG to actually appreciate the album for what it is, I'm not EVEN gonna say it took me that long to GET IT because lord knows this broad she has me scratching my head at some points. Erykah is a genius and at times it works in her favor and against her, while listening to the album I felt like it should be a class at the community college just to dissect it!!! I don't consider myself a Erykah stan, but at the same time i don't consider myself a casual listener of her music either, but i think this album went over the heads of many(NOT ALL) fans, stans and listeners all the same. I know its Erykah, I know she's one of the cool kids in this over populated homeroom known as the music industry, and I know it makes you one of the cool kids for liking her, but for this effort i think its ok to say...I don't get it.

I made a huge mistake going into this album. After listening to one of the hottest tracks so far this year, the first single "Honey", I went in with the mindset that Erykah would be on some Mama's Gun/ Baduizm type shit, but once i got to track 3 on New Amerykah I realized, that was FAR from the case. The album starts out with a funky...intro? track? who the hell knows, but whatever it is it definitely gets to the point and sets up the album perfectly, that is until you glimpse at the stereo and realize your 4 minutes deep and it isn't off yet! much like the majority of New Amerykahs tracks, this one overstays its welcome, and the last few seconds is pointless ramble and destroys the momentum from the next track, one of New Amerykahs best, "The Healer".

This track should be changed to "The Grower", because that's exactly what it will do. If you don't fall in love with the track automatically because you think Erykah is trying to claim your soul, or because its just so different, then you definitely owe it to yourself to give it a few more listens. The head nod inducing track is produced by Madlib, a California based producer/rapper/dj and chronicles Erykah undying love for hiphop, stating that "Its bigger than religion". Directly following "The Healer" is the infectious "Me" and proves that one song going directly to the next works beautifully for Erykah, all extras aren't needed.

This year, Erykah will release New AmErykah, a series of at least two albums (the first of course being 4th World War and the second dropping in the summer) dealing with sociopolitical issues that will come to life through different musical styles jumping from multiple decades. That's great and all and I applaud the ambition behind it, for something like this isn't done in R&B (and NO Beyonce re releasing Bday doesn't count!) but I would have preferred it if Erykah left ALL the concepts at the door!, with 5 years since her last studio album it would have been MORE than refreshing just to get an album of hers showcasing her amazing voice, lyrics and knack for working with brilliant producers, instead this album is bogged down with over thought and forced experimentation.

The main problem with New Amerykah is the overall random feel the album showcases all too frequently. From the unnecessary mumblings and chanting that comes after many songs, that practically ruin the transition and interrupts the mood, i.e. "Me" . Tracks would have shined and the point would have came across PERFECTLY without any of the extras, i.e. "Twinkle" and "Soldier". At other times I feel to truly understand and enjoy this album you have to go on a treasure hunt, waiting sometimes 2 minutes through a track just to get a refreshing and much needed surprise, a vintage Erykah Badu sound when a track switches up in mid listen! This most notably happens on tracks like "Master Teacher" and "The Hump", The former going into a beautiful lounge type track and the ladder into a slow soulful groove that would have went PERFECTLY on Baduizm. Erykah isn't exactly new to doing this, showcasing this on Mamas Gun with "Green Eyes", but the difference then was the track went from great to GREATER. That track didn't leave you thinking "Why didn't she make the entire album sound like this? or at least the entire song".

This is not really a drive through town on a spring day while enjoying the music type of album, unless u have your skip finger ready just in case you don't want random chanting blasting from your ride. I'm sure Erykah developed this album with a certain mind set, in a certain environment and naturally assumed her fans will be on that wave length with her, but im afraid not everyone is willing to get high and listen to this album while laying under their beds in moon suits or whatever other weird shit that she may have intended. With that said i do believe Erykah is brilliant and shes never really been a slave to formulaic Soul R&B, but when you try TOO hard to be deep, different and experimental, it kind of comes off as weird, unnecessary, and pretentious...which basically sums up this album for the most part.

I Give New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War a C

In Stores Now!!!!!!!!

Agree with me? let me know! if u absolutely disagree and think im on something? let me kno that too! hit up the comment section and share!!!!...remember, sharing is caring!


QH said...

I've been a casual EB fan for awhile and liked "Worldwide Underground," so I plan to buy that one and her new one.

But why is everyone acting like EB isn't weird, even in the beginning, though more accesible, she was always out there. It is nice to see that her new LP has got folks talking.

Tha Connoisseur said...

Hun, I agree with your friend 'qh". Erykah never gave anyone the inclination that she was "normal". My girl came out with her incense, head wraps and tea on stage. Ever saw anyone break it down like that before E? And from there, she always did her own thing. You are right, she tends to go off sometimes on the album, but I think she is on an artistry type of shit. And if that is the journey that we have to go on to get some REAL music out to the masses, then so be it - well that's what I say anyway. :)

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RhythmicSoul said...

hey guys, LOVE the comment love :-)...But I wouldnt say that when erykah first came out that she was "weird" id say she was different, especially appearance wise which u guys seem to be referring to, with the headwrap and clothes and things like that. Musically, which is what im focusing on in my review, i think there was a method to her madness so to speak...i wouldnt consider Baduizm or Mamas Gun weird at all, or even World Wide Underground for the most part. I would NEVER expect anything formulaic from erykah EVER, but the sidesteps in the album was so far left field and frustrating because it made the album an uphill battle to actually like, which i can now say that i do. If the mumbling and chanting and etc. complimented the tracks or added to the message each track was giving then that would be different, but randomness afterthoughts really didnt do it for me, regardless of how much she doesnt match on stage or her always being "weird"..thats too much of a cop out for me ...but i am anxiously awaiting part 2 droppin in july!!!

S. Flemming said...

I'm glad somebody else came away with a similar view of what's going on. I liked this a lot and I've been disheartened by the way folks have reacted to it. Hopefully it will grow on people. As I said in the post I did on this, if people looked into her past they wouldn't have been surprised by the way this album turned out.

Tha Connoisseur said...

Sorry, I should have been a bit more clear - you are right. I didn't want to focus on the fact that she is "weird" or how she looks...I just meant the lady on the whole, Erykah the artist.. She is far from formulaic (as you stated) and I think that she is really pushing her boundaries artistically. Yet I do agree with you in terms of her album. It took me a few plays until I really "got" it. It sure isn't Mama's Gun AT ALL, however on the other hand, I am not at all surprised with what she came out with. At the time that Erykah came out, her writing, style and artistry were all different than everyone else on the scene. And she has always been "that woman." Besides, it did the job didn't it?? You are looking forward to part 2 regardless of the rants and ting! Now don't get me back here about this again!!! : )

(ha, you know I'm enjoying this...)

RhythmicSoul said...

UGH I LOVEEEEE the comment love!..people actually reading my blog? i can get use to this! lmao

Cori said...

I have to admit I was really looking forward to Erykah's new CD and when I was in the store and was faced with hers and Janet's, I easily chose Erykah's. When I got home I put it in and like you when I heard the intro(?) :-) I started getting hyped. Overall, I liked the CD. It did take a few listens to fully appreciate it, and I agree that there are some "unnecessary" sections. I was also surprised that Honey was not one of the main tracks on the album. It was almost like one of those hidden tracks. Almost like they threw that one in to make it to "hook" the main stream, but then they capture you with the "message" of the rest of the disc.

pam said...

People change. Ms Badu has the courage to put out where she is mentally in her music. Some will like it and some wont. Is she happy... probably. Will she make money? Well apparently an artsite of her calibre having the balls to sing what they actually feel and break a cookie cutter mold is so weird, she is getting buzz for this. I may not get it. But its important to me that Ms Badu does what she does.