The Near Transformation of Erykah Badu

27 02 2008

By Derek Beres

We can’t quite argue that New Amerykah Part 1 (4th World War) is the highlight of your career, because you’ve always been making serious records. There has certainly been a progression of experimentation since the Baduizm days, though ever since “On & On” you’ve been spinning circles with your three dollars and six dimes. On the latest you’ve turned thirty-six, which is the human approximation of that 360 degrees. The circles have never stopped in the 11 years between, and the integrity and musicality is, to these ears, the most complete you’ve created to date. Great artists evolve, and I don’t believe there is any argument that you are anything but.

Still, you had our ears. You had our attention and didn’t go all the way. You backed out.

There is an old argument about having it both ways. Some musicians feel that music is a sacred and/or social craft, and they should remain separate from the sphere of public (read: political) influence. They label themselves entertainers and want nothing to do with the translations and expectations of third parties in the media or in the headphones. They shy away from affiliation of any kind, even if they make their living from money spent by the public. They are there to divert and delight, not preach or influence.

Others use the microphone and amplifiers as a pulpit for political and spiritual exhibitionism. They work out their own issues in the public sphere, and take you along for their ride. They purposefully influence listeners with their lyrics, not to mention the choice of instrumentation, presentation and tempo — as sound is as important as meaning. In fact, many traditions consider sound more important than meaning (including America’s medieval European roots). In a culture educated and defined by the meaning of words, this seems a stretch, but for innumerable traditions — which include bhakti yogis, Moroccan gnawas, medieval prose writers and Greek philosophers — the quality of the word was judged by the effects on the ear, and not the definition on the page.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post.




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