Erykah Badu

New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

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

Erykah Badu’s 2008 album Amerykah Part One (4th World War) was a tremendously ambitious departure from the radio-friendly neo-soul she was known for. Featuring otherworldly forays into dark funk and electronica, it was awash in political commentary and societal critiques; Badu has said it was her “left brain” album, focusing on analytical processes rather than emotion. Her follow-up, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), then, is her “right brain” work, and it is concerned with love and relationships. The music will feel much more familiar to fans of her early CDs, as its live percussion and strings—including harp—give it a more intimate, inviting feel. Badu has romance on her mind, especially on tracks like the rump-shaker “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” and “Love,” which was produced by her and the late J Dilla. The lyrics don’t strive to be intellectual like they did on Part One, and indeed refrains like “Feel me/ Just tell me/You love me/I like it,” are downright basic. But what the work lacks in sophistication, it more than makes up for in emotional honesty, accessibility and musicianship. “Turn Me Away (Get Munny)” features an interpolation of Sylvia Striplin’s “Can’t Turn Me Away”—listeners may be more familiar with Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Biggie’s “Get Money” version—but Badu makes it her own, reminding the listener just how effective she can be within the confines of traditional rap-influenced R&B. It was nice to see her experimenting, but it’s great hearing her doing what she does best.


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