Throughout her decade-plus-long career, Erykah Badu has always taken the unpredictable route. Now the adventurous Dallas-born singer-songwriter is getting back to basics with her album New Amerykah Part II (Return of the Ankh). As reported in VIBE’s extensive preview of the sequel to the politically-inspired, digital-driven New Amerykah Pt. 1: 4th World War, Badu has injected a more personal feel this time around. Part II offers the emotional highs and lows of being romantically involved as the album’s at times analog sound (live bass, piano, and drums) gives a direct nod to her jazzy 1997 debut Baduizm. And according to Badu, it was all by design.
“To me, the songs that I chose for Part 1 were very left-brained,” Badu tells VIBE. “It was a thinking man’s album. And I used an artist named Emak, who’s a political cartoonist; he’s a thinking man’s artist. It was a thought-provoking piece that went with the album. But New Amerykah Part II is a very emotional feeling piece. And I call it Return of the Ankh because during Baduizm I was studying cosmic science and the ankh was the centerpiece of everything. I used the philosophy of it when I was writing songs for Baduizm. And I felt like I was writing those songs for Part II.”
Badu also points out that newer songs like “Window Seat,” “Don’t Be Long,” “Agitation” and “Undercover Over-Lover” are universal, which may surprise fans of her more avant-garde work.
“Some of the Part II tracks have complex lyric styles, some of them do not,” she says. “Some of them just feel good. I don’t think art always has to have some profound miracle.”
New Amerykah Part II (Return of the Ankh) is due out March 30. —Keith Murphy