New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(324)

Erykah Badu

New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) is without question one of the most political and complex soul albums of recent times.

Sewn into the album are echoes of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On?, Curtis Mayfield's This is America and a flavour of Funkadelic. At times you can hear an historical echo of the Black Power and consciousness raising themes of the 1970s.

Badu is well known for weaving unusual musical influences and referencing old-school rappers and songs. From the outset the soul of this album offers more - it is at times demanding and disquieting. These tracks are not just beautifully crafted but a rich collage of sound using hip hop, funk and soul combined with the most advanced beats.

Kick off your shoes and take time to invest and explore, to reveal the rewards of this album. It brims with an impressive crew of producers, musicians and writers such as Madlib and Roy Ayers.

It's also a highly political musical move forward for Badu. I get the sense that in the year of the US presidential elections this is her very own state of the union address. Badu, best known for her introspective, highly personal songwriting is looking outward, many of her songs detailing her political consciousness.

The album sleeve portrays painted symbols of syringes, handcuffs and dollar signs that hint at the crisis Badu is taking aim at.

In the song "Soldier" Badu starts by lamenting the missed opportunities of youth in the ghetto, she attacks the war in Iraq, as well as including "my folks on the picket line" and "baptised when the levee broke" in reference to the New Orleans flooding of 2006.

Badu leaps from hard bop in "The Cell" with a definite class context, to space age, chaotic beats in "Twinkle". She finishes, for now, with a gorgeous soulful ballad. What runs through this album is black soul music, if you're a fan of soul, feel compelled, you need to get this album. Look forward to Part Two, Badu's musical revolution is not over yet.