I picked up New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War),the new album by Erykah Badu, the other day and I am really feeling it. I’ve had the 12″ for “Honey” for a while now, and while I love it (especially the video, it’s like she made it just for vinyl heads!) it was definitely more in her older song based style. I was hoping for something more loose, like her last joint Worldwide Underground, where she really seemed to let her hair down (or up, whichever way you wanna look at it). I should not have worried, she came through with some wild and crazy shit! As you can see in the picture above of some of the inside artwork from the album, she did not hold back one tiny bit, be it the extremely political lyrics and artwork, the abstracted hip-hop of the beats (including a couple by Madlib and many references to J Dilla), or the very loose structure of the songs. This is exactly what I want from an artist, their pure vision.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is all I’m looking for in any kind of art, literature, film, or music. I want artists who are completely and totally uncompromising. I want to be challenged to think of music in a different way. This is a common thread in many of my favorite artists from Theo Parrish to Herbie Hancock to Brian Eno. They never worried about commercial success (whether they had it or not already!), softening things for people to understand them better, or anything other than their own ideas. For an artist to take you into their own world is the greatest artistic achievement possible, and Eryka Badu does that quite wonderfully on this album. When people talk about the word “deep” in relation to music, this is what they mean. I can’t wait for part 2 to hit the shelves!