Wednesday, August 26, 2009
New Amerykah Part One (Erykah Badu) (2008):
If life indeed imitates art then the cover of Badu’s fifth album is very telling. A big-ass afro of writhing figures is being figuratively pomaded by Badu who has both fists out sporting the bling that has come to define American hip/hop. New Amerykah Part One therefore is a cultural statement, one that targets the African-American experience through critical lenses. Whereas her previous records centered through neo-soul expressions, Badu’s change of direction from here on would be more pointed social commentary. Unlike others though who sacrifice funk for politicizing, Badu ups the cheese through producers like Madlib and Mike ‘Chav’ Chavarria. Juxtaposing message and music can be tricky but Badu has spent the last twelve years doing just that. The opener, Amerykan Promise, twins the evil of commercialism and black exploitation. Healer documents succinctly the state of hip/hop being the driving force of the American dream. The track serves as a warning as well as guarded celebration. The Cell derides the effect substance abuse has had on the black community (momma hopped up on cocaine/daddy on space ships with no brain) while Twinkle exquisitely rebuffs hand-outs for blacks looking excuses not to do better for themselves (they say their grandfathers and grandmothers/work hard for nothing/and we still in this ghetto). It is very heartening to hear Badu tackle these issues as her male counterparts are more concerned in the accumulation of street credo to effect change besides she has done in this decade what none of them have managed so far: she has grown up.