Erykah Badu has yet to disappoint, as her fourth studio album made many publications’ best-of lists of 2008. Badu is most commonly known for her ability to blend hip-hop rhymes, jazz instrumentals, and emotionally charged lyrics that can match the genre of Neo-soul, alongside D’Angelo.
Badu’s increasing use of new elements is apparent from album to album, as her first (Baduizm) carried a somewhat simple Seventies funk and soul sound. Not only does New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) incorporate significant collaboration, such as Madlib and Sa-Ra members Shafiq Husayn and Taz Arnold, the extensive rhymes and aggressive lyrics make this album stand apart from her previous ones.
New Amerykah contains several tracks that present lyrics of struggle, telling stories of drugs, violence, misunderstandings, and love. Most notably, “The Healer” explains the difficulty of drug addiction, insisting that “It’s bigger than religion / my niccas / government.” Another reference is found in “That Hump,” which acts as a strong encouragement.
Other emotional tracks include “Telephone,” which explores the pain of death, while “Me” seems to be a vow the artist is making to never lose herself to the world of the rich and famous. The synth-bass-drenched love song “Honey” uses more traditional, almost easy-listening lyrics.
Beyond these storytelling tracks, Badu continues to tackle social and political issues. In fact, “Twinkle” urgently challenges the listener to make a difference: “I want you to get angry.” Furthermore, “Amerykahn Promise” seems to be a vow to a lover, yet it’s filled with references to American culture.
Badu’s influence and prominence in the soul community are everlasting. Her performance on this album indicates that she will not be fading from the limelight in the near future, or at least until Part Two is released. Like every Erykah Badu album, make this a must-have album for your soul collection.