Sound Check: Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War (2008)

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War (2008)

Badu rises from the nu-Soul wreckage as a nu-Funkateer, complete with blowout cover, jive spelling and “up with people” vibes. If the terms “retro” and “vintage” inspire you to burn down the closest Urban Outfitters in a storm of Nag Champa-fueled anger, this exploitation of an exploitation isn’t for you.

When Badu drops the soul sister shtick and gets really real, even the sleepier tracks get shaken awake. Production from 9th Wonder follows the J-Dilla blueprint of smooth soul and hard bop, but the end product is dangerously close to mimicry.

Badu’s heart is in the right place, I’m sure, but she tries too hard to impress, and pilfers too much from a bygone era when a modern take would suffice. Surprisingly sterile for an R&B/Soul album, New Amerykah is simply too retro and retrograde.

Key tracks: “Master Teacher,” “Twinkle”

Download New Amerykah now.

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