Album: Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World Order) (Universal)

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The Independent Culture

Like many a hip-hop and R&B star, Erykah Badu seems to have spent more time acting than making music recently, releasing only the EP Worldwide Underground since her 2000 album Mama's Gun.

The protracted writer's block that prompted her Frustrated Artist Tour of 2002/3 has now, however, ended with NewAmerykah Part One the first of three albums currently in the pipeline (Part Two is scheduled to follow in July). Produced by 9th Wonder and Madlib, it's a Seventies-influenced psychedelic-soul opus akin to her old squeeze Common's Electric Circus, with heavy funk grooves in classic James Brown and Funkadelic style driving tracks like "Honey" and "Amerykhan Promise", and more fractured beats behind "The Healer" and "My People".

Her subject matter – the black struggle to find a place of nobility – is perhaps best expressed over the collaged loops, squelchy bass and smears of strings that make up "Master Teacher": "What if there were no niggers, only master teachers?"

Download this: 'Master Teacher', 'Honey', 'Amerykhan Promise', 'My People'

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