Track Breakdown: Time Machine Edition-A.D. 2000 by Erykah Badu
The public perception of Badu has always been that she is nuts. She dates important musicians and messes up their heads. I have to be honest…her discography is full of songs that make perfect sense to me. She’s weird but I’m weird and the public isn’t great at keeping a safe space for us. Her second album ,Mama’s Gun, was released November 21, 2000. It must have seemed like an especially odd album because that is the same month Creed was charting unironically. The music on the charts was easy to figure out: Aguilera fit a mold perfectly, Britney Spears and N’Sync were branded within an inch of their lives. An audience looking for simple icons must have thought Badu certifiable. Only one other album in 2000 can be considered a partner to Mama’s Gun and that’s D’Angelo’s Voodoo. Both albums use a genre usually considered comforting in order to throw complex conversations at the listener.
I was definitely 20 years old and in the United States Army. We spent a lot of time going places and hiding from work that didn’t need to be done. I remember being in the Mojave desert in August under a Hummer (for shade) listening to Voodoo and Mama’s Gun. While stationed at Fort Hood I got a crash course in the levels of Southern Hip Hop (before it took over the world). My best friend was from SouthEast Atlanta and preached Dungeon Family, Kilo Ali, and Badu.
The world was so different once I picked up the language. Erykah Badu has forever after been my Neo-Soul Fiona Apple. While most major artists are hungrily announcing or pursuing accomplishments A.D. 2000 questions the nature of success. Not every Badu song is fancy poetry. Orange Moon (as an example) is just a pretty song about love. She always worked with the best musicians, the guitar-work on A.D. 2000 is light and precious and forms a groove that doesn’t resemble the hi-hat driven sound of Bag Lady or the horns dancing on Booty. Every song adds the ingredients differently. The music has to sound free in order for Badu to actually love it.
A.D. 2000 is a chant. She is really good at chants. “No you won’t be naming no buildings after me…to go down dilapidated. No you won’t be naming no buildings after me. My name won’t be misstated.” She says it over and over with very good reason. We all should. Don’t ever ever be under the impression that having a building wear your name is a huge benefit to your name. Your name should be more important than any building. You should make it that way. Paint with all the colors because you don’t have lots of time and the world is changing. Don’t ever let your name be misstated misapplied or mishandled. Guard it like Badu or Tom Waits does.
Mama’s Gun is not known as her classic. If anything, people think of it as her almost classic. Baduizm (her debut album) is supposed to be THE ONE but it never hit me as hard. We used to put A.D. 2000 on and freestyle while her voice rang in the background and the stereo set to repeat. No matter where she fits in the history of the music she has been my umbrella when the world rains down. She knows what’s important and uses her fears to focus on those things.
I remain thankful to live the rest of my life within the lessons contained in this songs chorus.