#26

October 29, 2010

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
soul, hip-hop, r&b
2008

Musically complex and ignited with fiery social and political commentary, New Amerykah Part One (Fourth World War) merges elements from neo-soul (via the vocals) and hop-hop (via the beats and production) and rounds them out with splashes of funk & contemporary r&b. Sounding confident and righteously motivated, Badu doesn’t hold back for a moment, delving fearlessly into heated topics such as politics, war, immigration, drugs, violence, patriotism, race-relations, religion, health, education, law and death, and her lyricism is razor-sharp throughout. So much of Badu’s vocal performance and the album’s subject matter will leave a mark on the listener: first track Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)“Amerykahn Promise” grabs your attention with the love-meets-violence catch-cry of “Promise to you baby, I’ll love you tooth for tooth and eye for eye”, while “The Healer” sees Badu claiming that hip-hop is “bigger than religion … bigger than the government”, set atop funky beats and dreamy chime samples. “The Cell” reflects on the tragedy of addiction within the family (“Momma hopped up on cocaine / Daddy on space ships with no brain / Sister gone numb the pain the same / Why same DNA cell?”) and tribute is paid to J Dilla in the serene “Telephone”, a seven-minute slow-burner which features a soaring coda that makes for one of the albums greatest highlights. The album is saturated with this sort of powerful sentiment and unwavering conviction, making New Amerykah Part One get under your skin as much for its moving content as its irresistible grooves.

 

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#28

October 27, 2010

Donnie – The Colored Section
soul
2002

Donnie - The Colored SectionThe Colored Section carries its themes of racial inequality with such compelling assurance that it gives the album a tremendous sense of weight and sociopolitical importance, placing it firmly alongside the more well-known, like-minded recordings of the 1960s and 70s. Like many of those earlier works, the vast majority of The Colored Section carries a sense of determination, heart, pride and passion that’s inspirational and deeply moving. The early blissful trifecta of “Beautiful Me”, “Could 9” and “People Person” combine to set the bar impossibly high, with the groovy “People Person” in particular sounding like a long-lost Stevie Wonder classic. It’s evident throughout The Colored Section that Wonder has had a huge influence on Donnie – although his vocals never dip into mere imitation – with several cuts sounding so authentically Motown that they could have come straight from one of the 60s/70s originals. The remainder of the album showcases Donnie’s versatility, from the consumer-criticism atop Dixie stylings of “Big Black Buck” to the squelch-&-flicker electronic backdrop of “Masterplan” and the Brazilian tones of “Do You Know?” A brilliant, bold and audacious debut, The Colored Section stamped Donnie’s mark on the music scene as an artist of truly immense ability.