Before we get to Erykah Badu, the artist of the week, we need to address that we FINALLY saw the release of Frank Ocean's long awaited follow up to channel ORANGE, his 2012 studio debut that sent everyone's mind on a tilt-a-whirl as it swept across the globe. The album, titled Blonde (available only on Apple at this point), has been on uninterrupted rotation since its August 20th release (a hot 48 hours as of now). First thoughts? It's really good, but I'm not obsessed. Like its predecessor, it's a long album, and there are quite a few layers that need to be peeled back. I'm really looking forward to diving into it, and you can expect my review later in the week. Which brings me to a question, how long does it take to properly take in an album?
This question has long been an issue of mine, generally coming to light after big releases. Major publications are so desperate to get their review out as quickly as possible that they don't take the time to truly soak in the music, especially an album with as much depth as what we're given here. Already, two days after the release of Blonde, a number of big time syndicates (New York Times, LA Times, Rolling Stone, etc.) have released a review of the album. Now, some records can be taken at face value, Selena Gomez isn't trying to challenge anyone, but for albums like Blonde there needs to be more. Reading the lyrics and listening to the record a handful of times isn't understanding. You need to spend time with it, step away from it, hear it in different conditions, under different circumstances. I could talk about this forever, but I digress. All I'm saying is, give it at least a week. Just give me the illusion that you've sunk your teeth into the record. Thank you.
And for those of you who haven't purchased it, here's a three song block off of Blonde to get your toes wet...
Erykah Badu - Mama's Gun
In late July, Erykah and Nas put out a new single, "This Bitter Land," in support of the now recently released film The Land. This caused me to go back revisit my introduction to the artist, who would go on to play a big step in my musical development, 2000's Mama's Gun.
When she put out last years mixtape, But You Caint Use My Phone (her first release in five years), it pushed me to dive back into her catalogue, though I mostly stuck to the two releases prior to that, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) and New Amerykah Part Two: The Return Of The Ankh. But when this new single came out it took me right back to Mama's Gun. I remember even then she felt classic, her sound was a product of generations past coming together, she built off the classics, yet it didn't sound old. It's been 16 years since it came out, and that belief has now been written in stone. If she were to release that album today, it wouldn't feel dated in the slightest, and that's how her entire discography plays! How many artists can we say that about?
Mama's Gun, released in November of 2000, forced me to calm down and reflect on more than the beats that drove my listening habits that year. The year 2000 was one that really shaped me, especially from a hip hop perspective: Outkast released Stankonia (top five all time hip hop records for me), Ghostface Killah dropped Supreme Clientele, his defining album, much like Eminem, who put out his third record, The Marshall Mathers LP, Nelly debuted Country Grammar, Ludacris had Back for the First Time, and most importantly (for me), Deltron 3030's self titled debut was gifted to us (one of my favorite records ever, regardless of genre). The list goes on and on...
All of the above is to say, I wasn't in the mood for much else that year, so the fact that Mama's Gun caught my attention and held it (especially at 111 minutes!), was a blessing, and I think speaks to the power of the album. She drifts from song to song, combining genres so smoothly you'd never know they don't always go hand in hand. Whether it's the hip hop vibe of "Don't Cha Know," the R&B stylings throughout, the bossa nova vibe on "A.D. 2000," the funk on "Booty," the smooth jazz presence in "Orange Moon," or the reggae beat backing the "Bumpy's Lament" sample in "Bag Lady" (a sample you heard more prominently on Dr. Dre's "Xxplosive" the year before), this album can be torn apart, and there's always something new. That's why, 16 years after it's release, I still go back. Fine wine Ms. Badu, fine wine.
Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady
It's no secret Janelle Monae is my favorite female in music, considering I mention her every chance I get. I listen to her constantly, but I have yet to include her in my Weekly Roundup! And though I'll include her as the featured artist soon, I thought it appropriate to have a single of hers this week. Janelle is a woman is unlimited talents, and while there are a multitude of artists that birthed her, there's no one I hear more in her sound and approach than Erykah Badu. From structure to vibe, especially on her latest release The Electric Lady (an album which found Badu herself adding a feature to on "Q.U.E.E.N."), she's present.
Initially I was only going to post the single, but the transition to the following track is TOO GOOD! Then I came to my senses and realized the whole album is TOO GOOD. So if it's only Erykah you want, hit up "Q.U.E.E.N." and PLEASE let it play into the title track, "Electric Lady," so your soul can be saved. But if you're the beautiful and intelligent human being I think you are, you'll put the entire album on and live your best life.
The Game - "On Me" feat. Kendrick Lamar
Keeping with the Badu themed week, which was unintentional I swear, I'll bring back the love I have for the first of The Game's 2015 releases, The Documentary 2. The second track on the album, but the true kick off of the record, "On Me," sample's Badu's "On & On" off her 1997 debut Baduizm [a song she references herself on her followup, and focal point of this week's roundup, Mama's Gun ("...& On")]. The sampling is executed perfectly with production from Bongo (L&F) and Pops, allowing The Game to come out the gates on fire (adding Kendrick didn't hurt too much either).
Here's the track, along with Badu's song that was sampled.
Erykah Badu & Nas - "This Bitter Land"
Earlier I mentioned this song, in support of the Nas produced film The Land. The film follows a group of teenage boys in Cleveland, Ohio, who find them themselves in hot water following their crossing of the local Queen-pin. The movie is available on Amazon, and you should check it out! The album's soundtrack is solid, sporting features from some notable names like Pusha T, Jeremih, Kanye West, French Montana, and Ezzy. Good stuff. Here's the single from Badu and Nas. Enjoyyyyy.