Friday, 26 December 2008

Best of 2008: #6 Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One: Fourth World War

I kinda feel like this is Erykah Badu's answer to / apology for / explanation of Common's Electric Circus, which she featured on in 2002 (with her then boyfriend, of course), and is one of the most derided albums of recent years. But I actually enjoyed it. It was hugely indulgent and ambitious and experimented with all sorts of non-hip-hop sounds and styles and that seemed to make it RONG - because, as Kanye has just shown again, hip-hop fans can be as conservative in their music tastes as anyone else. Neither Electric Circus or New Amerykah are purebred anything: the first track on New Amerykah ("American Promise") is pure Funkadelic, but after that it runs a groovy gamut, often sacrificing any hints of 'a tune' in favour of Zappaesque (We're Only In It For The Money) stream-of-consciousness diversions. "Master Teacher" and "The Hump" both take such sudden left-turns you have to double-take your MP3 player when it says the song hasn't changed. So here we are again, able - if we so choose - to criticise Badu for having 'lost the plot' here, just as Common apparently did, when in fact we can suppose that there never was a plot to begin with and both artists were just following their instincts all along. For some reason, Badu gets away with her ambitious sprawl, while Common is held more tightly to his fans' expectations. Either it's double standards, or it's time for the critics to play their trump card: this album is just better than Common's. It just is. Well, that's the end of the argument then.

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