The weather in New York City on Wednesday December 9th was nothing more than cold and uncomfortable, two words I once used to describe Erykah Badu’s last album, New Amerykah: 4th World War. The album was a rather dark look at the world we live in and at times showed signs of hopelessness. However, the album Erykah Badu previewed for a group of journalists in Chung King Studios on this frigid night was anything but cold and uncomfortable.
New Amerykah Part 2: Return Of The Ankh is a complete 180 degree turn from it’s predecessor. With much of the same team from 4th World War on board, the album sounds decidedly more organic, relying far less on the digital bleakness presented on 4th World War. Pianos, harps, jazzy drums and percussion all provide an organic backdrop to an album that takes a rather introspective look at a woman in a relationship.
Badu even manages to pay homage to the late Notorious B.I.G. on the songs “Get Money” and “Fall In Love.” On”Get Money,” her take on shallow women in relationships, she references the Junior M.A.F.I.A. song of the same name while going even deeper to acknowledge Sylvia Striplin’s “You Can’t Turn Me Away” which was sampled on the classic hip-hop record. “Fall In Love” finds Badu giving a nod to Biggie’s “Warning” where she cautions “You don’t want to fall in love with me / There’s gonna be a lot of slow singing and flower bringing / If my burglar alarm starts ringing” over a fresh sample of Eddie Kendricks’ “Intimate Friends.”
Listen closely to this video of Erykah Badu at the opening of the Kid Robot store in Dallas, TX for a sample of “Get Money.”
The references don’t stop there as Badu goes back to her own past on “Don’t Be Long” where she revisits the hustler theme from Badu-Izm‘s “Otherside Of The Game” and Worldwide Underground‘s “Danger.” Badu explained that the hustler in these songs represents her.
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Badu compared the three-part album closer, “Out My Mind Just In Time” to Mama’s Gun‘s “Green Eyes,” another three-part song that closed that album. The first part features an acoustic piano with Erykah lamenting “I’m a recovering undercover over-lover / Recovering from a love I just can’t get over / My common law other thinks he wants another.” The second part is a rollercoaster where you almost expect Erykah to fall apart by the time it ends. Badu stopped the song just before the third part by saying she couldn’t give away everything.
“I don’t have any 99 cent singles for you,” Erykah warned the room before the studio engineer hit the playback button. Despite this, Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part 2: Return Of The Ankh is the most immediately satisfying project she’s released since Mama’s Gun.
With it’s smooth flow and inviting ambience, I’m already reserving a spot on my Top 10 Albums of 2010 lists for Return Of The Ankh.
Erykah closed the session by previewing another song that she says might not make the album. “Jump Up In The Air And Stay There” is a heavily hip-hop influenced record that Erykah says features 10 different emcees. Forever the tease, Erykah only played Lil Wayne’s verse and said that the other 9 emcees will be revealed one by one.
New Amerykah Part 2: Return Of The Ankh
1. 20 Feet Tall (produced by 9th Wonder)
2. Window Seat (produced by Erykah Badu & James Poyser)
3. Agitation (produced by Shafiq Husayn of Sa-Ra Creative Partners)
4. Get Money (produced by Erykah Badu, James Poyser, Karriem Riggins and Thundercat)
5. Don’t Be Long (produced by Ta’Raach)
6. Love (produced by J. Dilla)
7. Umm Hmm (produced by Karriem Riggins)
8. Fall in Love (produced by Madlib)
9. Incense (produced by Madlib)
10. Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 1 produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow, Part 2 produced by James Poyser)