"New Amerykah, Part Two (Return of the Ankh)" by Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu
New Amerykah, Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

Universal Motown Records Group
2010

Review

What do you get when you combine one part Jazz, one part Hip-Hop (by way of names like J.Dilla, 9th Wonder, and Madlib), and add to it a distinctive well-known voice with just a splash of controversy by way of a guerrilla-shot music video of some public nudity? Well, you get "New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh" which is the welcome return of Erykah Badu.

By now most people are well aware that there was some controversy around the stripping/assassination video for the song "Window Seat". While I'm sure that little bit of controversy helped get attention for the song and album, neither need the help. They are already really, really good.

(As an aside, I think the publicity has more to do with a well-known celebrity and some public nudity than over any message that the video may have had. I guess artists right now are doing anything they can to get more attention for their new albums. Already three controversial videos in as many months - Lady Gaga's "Telephone", M.I.A.'s "Born Free", and of course Badu's "Window Seat". Of the three, I think that M.I.A.'s is the most worthy of the controversy for the graphic displays of violence at the end. What I find similar amongst all three of these examples is that these videos couldn't possibly be more obscure in their attempts to convey a message and really are just thinly justified excused to be ostentatious).

Erykah Badu for me has always been more about highlighting the Jazz side of Soul music and this album is no different. However, since Erykah Badu has become well known for her Hip-Hop collaborations (both in the studio and otherwise) it is worth noting that there is a definite overriding Hip-Hop influence on each track. Also, some pretty heavy Hip-Hop producers make appearances. I'm talking of course about the previously mentioned 9th Wonder, Madlib, and the late, great J. Dilla. It should no surprise that that 9th Wonder produced track containing a James Poyser interpolation track "20 Feet Tall" is really good. It sounds like vintage Erykah Badu and serves as a nice, mellow introduction to the album with some cool keys playing a short little loop. Also not surprising is that the Dilla track "Love" is the highlight of the album (100% Funk with Erykah Badu more coloring the "Dilla Donuts-esque" track). What is very surprising is how flat Madlib's contribution "Incense" is. As an interlude or instrumental segue it would be fine, but compared to the rest, it is a bit uninspired.

The rest of the album is some awesome Jazz inspired Neo-Soul Music with some great instrumentation. It is interesting to see the Hip-Hop/Soul influences blend into each other in a very self-referential sort of way. For example, the track "Turn Me Away (Get Money)" which takes the well-known sample of "You Can't Turn Me Away" by Sylvia Striplin which most people know for having been sampled by Junior M.A.F.I.A. on "Get Money". The song is pretty much just a remake of the Sylvia Striplin song but with a few added Badu-specific elements that purposely remind the listener of Biggie and company. Even more Biggie love can be found on the track "Fall In Love" where the chorus references Biggie's track "Warning" with its chorus of There's gonna be some slow singing and flower bringing if my burglar alarm starts ringing.

Erykah Badu sounds great (listen to the strength of the voice on the closer "Out of My Mind") and the album is great and no amount of controversy is going to make it better. So if you are a fan of Erykah Badu or her unique style of Soul music then picking this up should be a no-brainer. Now put your clothes back on.

4.222 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. 20 Feet Tall (03:24) 4
2. Window Seat (04:49) 5
3. Agitation (01:33)
4. Turn Me Away (Get Munny) (05:26) 4
5. Gone Baby, Don't Be Long (04:39) 5
6. Umm Hmm (03:46) 5
7. Love (06:01) 5
8. You Loving Me (Session) (01:04)
9. Fall in Love (Your Funeral) (06:06) 3
10. Incense (feat. Kirsten Agnesta) (03:28) 3
11. Out My Mind, Just in Time (10:21) 4