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.
They call these things mixtapes but we have to pay for them?
Whenever people look at me and say the mixtape doesn’t exist anymore; no difference exists between albums and mixtapes…I have to look at them confused. What do you mean? I know it’s an album because I paid for the thing. This all changed a while ago and now Kendrick Lamar calls my favorite album he ever released a mixtape (Section 80) so I’m forced to roll with this (respecting the artists wishes). A lot of these non-mixtape mixtapes have dropped recently and I wanted to give a quick update on two important projects you need to check out. These are on ITunes and the second is on Amazon for digital purchase.
Erykah Badu-But U Caint Use My Phone
I have had my fair share of Badu-ruining-great-rappers conversations and while it is fun to believe in (like magic or the Electoral College) it is also entirely irrelevant. If Common puts out a bad album I’m not going to act like he was under someone’s spell (I wish I could for UMC) but more importantly Badu has an incredible career of her own. She creates deeply lyrical masterpieces like Mama’s Gun or chant heavy hooky albums like New Amerykah Part One and both kinds work for her. But U Caint Use My Phone is her doing it again, and while most will come for the stellar remake of Hotline Bling (called Cel U Lar Device) or the breathtaking collaboration with Andre 3000 (called Hello) this has a lot of top tier Badu. Phone Down might be my favorite song on the project because somehow without declaring itself vividly sexual the song overflows with it. She sounds assured and calm, so confident in who she is she doesn’t need to shout just give a gentle warning and she has your attention. She not only promises that she can make you put your phone down but have you so bamboozled in her you won’t know how to unlock it.
Yes it’s deeply intelligent in its handling of our communication in the modern age; the separation our constant cell phone use creates between lovers, friends and family but more important than that Erykah Badu is still dope in a year where Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson have proved the same. So it may cost you money to pick this up but you will be supporting one of the really unique voices in the hip hop universe.
Alex Wiley-Village Party 2: Heaven’s Gate
I listened to Village Party everywhere. I don’t mind saying it. I spent all of last year listening to it but never reviewed it. The mixtape just seemed too impossibly atmospheric and different to properly describe. Alex Wiley destroys the wall between bars and hooks and just sways from word to word swimming in the beat. Listening to Alex Wiley is being delightfully inebriated and I’m clearly not the only one loving the experience. When Twista spits hot fire on Japanese he’s audibly taken with the vibe. It’s all vibe and it’s all different, how comforting must that be for an artist who suffered long in hip hop’s underappreciated tier because of how different his music was? Chance the Rapper doesn’t stick out at all on Navigator Truck, this is Wiley’s world and all the offbeat vocalists live here in harmony.
I am in no way saying that Wiley gets over on his chant/singing. If you listen to Play you will find yourself in observance of his slinky style reggae flow where he pounds words one after another until he slows down fading into the bass and the playing children just to emerge dropping bars feverishly. As much as I love to hear any gifted lyricist declare themselves by the force of their lyrics songs like Residual Effects (Shout out to Hippie Sabotage who do GREAT work on Village Party 2) are as hypnotic as those old Cypress Hill weed love songs.
Village Party 2 does what the first did, it takes me out of the world for as long as it’s playing and it probably does a better job than its predecessor. I’ll be honest; I had no qualms paying for this one.
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Tagged Alex Wiley, Andre 3000, Atmospheric rap, But U Caint Use My Phone, Cel U Lar Device, Chance the Rapper, Erykah Badu, hip hop, Hotline Bling, Mama's Gun, mixtape review, New Amerykah Part One, reviews, Section 80, Twista, Village Party, Village Party 2: Heaven's Gate