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.
Three Big Winners from Rapsody’s Eve album
Albums-With an aggregate score on Metacritic of 91 out of a 100 Rapsody’s new album Eve is not consummable in pop music chunks. While it is sixty two minutes and fifty seven seconds long It is so heavily thematic that every song acts as a vital puzzle piece in the totality of Black feminine dimension. This is more literal than hyperbole; most of the songs are named after an important black woman who made an important contribution to the world (Iman, Afeni, Serena, Whoopi, Oprah, etc).
Rapsody is my favorite female rapper in the world right now because of how elusive she is. She sneaks lines through like on the lead single Ibtihaj where she talks about how long women have led the way in hip hop. She says “Women been leading the way, since Roxanne Shante/And the Unit had Flava and Jay had Marcy neighbors that waved.” If you catch it, it is odd to think about Jay at one time having neighbors in Marcy who waved and how long ago that was. It’s a sneaky thoughtful personal image of a figure who seems so enormous now. For her pen to put the camera there is a real strong choice.
As the album’s star she never yells at people or engages theatrics. While this costs her a larger stage it creates real weight around bars that might not be considered that big a deal from someone else. On Whoopi when she sternly states “I ain’t feeling you like I ain’t feeling new Kanye,” you couldn’t help but think that might actually hurt Kanye’s feelings. She didn’t stutter or equivocate. Nothing she says is to be dismissed and critics know it. After years of putting out strong verses and solid music, fans know it as well. I watched a documentary following Rapsody. She is a nice lady in a hooded sweatshirt and if you ever need to ask what weapon she will use to defend herself against this dangerously half dead music industry…the album is the answer. It tells her story in full.
Eric G & 9th Wonder-12 out of 16 songs on Eve are produced by one of these two. 9th Wonder gets the full victory lap treatment because he has been pushing Rapsody with all the strength of his reputation for years and years. Now talking heads (like me) are running around touting Eve when they were dismissing her back in 2014.
I am very happy for Eric G to get a little of this shine. He is one of those kept label producers who remain the backbone of a unit (Elite is this for J.Cole and the Dreamville people). Rapsody sounds amazing over soul samples and smacking drums but Eric G finds a way to push the tempo. He sprinkles a little Roger Troutman into the song Aaliyah. Serena actually uses a Luther Campbell sample to set a fast tempo that pulls some of my favorite words from our narrator. He gives her soul but imbues it with strength and confidence. Rapsody has grown alongside 9th Wonder and Eric G. Eve is their moment alongside her.
Guests-Have you seen who is on this album? The lead single has GZA and D’Angelo on it. Gza does not contribute verses all over the place. He absolutely brings it like he’s happy to and he is not the only one. Nottz T’s up the perfect piano with chunky bass for Queen Latifah to flex over. J. Cole doesn’t just rap well dude gets deep into himself. His verse starts with “Born into pain” as the first three spoken words. This verse is given with deep respect to a piece of music he knows to be important. Iman captures a lot of talent in one place with JID continuing to build his guest verse portfolio , this time matching his speedbag flow with sincerity, Sir sounds buttery on the hook.
This is not a full review of Eve. If I did one of those it would be 1,500 words. I’d do 400 words just talking about how important to music Oprah is in that it brings the two best female rappers in the world together (Leikeli47 and Rapsody) over a beat (thank you Eric G!) that captures the best of both styles. It bounces with drums 47 can be proud of while giving Rapsody the sonic space to stretch out.
If this isn’t a review let it be a toast.
Glasses up for this thick novel of a thing.
May it never leave us.
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Tagged 9th Wonder, best albums of 2019, D'Angelo, Dreamville, Eric G, Eve, GZA, J Cole, JID, Leikeli47, Nottz, Queen Latifah, Rapsody