Erykah Badu is back and ready to shake up the neo-soul world she helped create. With assistance from underground producers like Madlib, Shafiq Husayn and, posthumously, J Dilla, New AmErykah Part One (4th World War) is exactly what the hip-hop/R&B world needed.
Treading on a different path than her previous Worldwide Underground and Baduizm, Badu somehow jumps from pure funk to underground hip-hop to atmospheric electronica with ease. Opening with “AmErykahn Promise,” a funk-filled Roy Ayers sample blended with a more familiar high-pitched Badu chant, the album keeps you curious and intrigued. Soon after the opener is a rebuttal to Nas’ claim that “hip-hop is dead” with Badu and Madlib teaming up to say that “it’s bigger than religion – hip-hop.”
The socio-political theme Badu employs is prevalent throughout the album and is highlighted in the soulful melodies of “Soldier,” which addresses subjects such as Iraq, Sept. 11, and the New Orleans levee crisis.
In an awkward contrast, the single “Honey” is the album’s bonus track. It may come too late in the scheme of things, but at least the album goes out with a classic Badu-banger.
Joshua Newman may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.