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Erykah Badu

New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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Erykah Badu has never been an artist whose music you get upon the first listen. Her first three releases – Baduizm, Mama's Gun and World Wide Underground – unearthed a deeper level of appreciation with each spin. Such is the case with her latest, the politically and socially charged New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War). Initially the 11-track release sounds a little messy, but its brilliance is magnified with each off-kilter song break, random mumble and eccentric drum pattern – especially when you consider the CD is just the first of a three-part series. Over production from Madlib, and Shafiq Husayn and Taz Arnold of Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Badu's honeyed vocals methodically flip between jazz and blues on tracks such as the poverty-inspired "That Hump" and the chastising "Master Teacher," where she claims to "stay woke" despite the world's apathy. Though the strange interludes threaten to throw off the project's focus, you can't help but appreciate an artist who isn't afraid to push creative boundaries, challenging both herself and listeners alike. 4 stars.

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