In New Amerykah Part One, society was on the brink. Pieced together largely on a laptop, that trippy, paranoid platter crackled like an emergency broadcast from 1977, echoing Farrakhan, Black Panther Party politics and Howard Beale’s manic Network rant for a new recession. But for Part Two, Erykah Badu crawls out of the bunker and glides into a dimly lit bop club.
On these deep and funky tunes, the mother of three sounds laaaid-back, with her mind on her honey and her honey on her mind. Love, and its pain and pleasure, is the recurring theme through these mellow, chorusless jams, which draw heavily on the gooey, organic grooves of soul-jazz. Her typical collaborators—James Poyser and Questlove of the Roots, Madlib and the late J Dilla—keep things seamlessly boiled down to electric piano, crisp drums, squishy slap bass and the occasional harp or chimes.
No singer rides a beat quite like Badu, her girlishness comically played up in “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY).” Trading the Afro wig for pigtails, she coos, “Money, can you come out and play?” Proclaiming herself an “undercover overlover,” the 39-year-old plays silly Billie Holiday on lines like “I’ll crochet for you” and “You’re loving me and I’m fucking your friends.” That last one cracks her up, stopping the song. Even more amusing: The heaviest thing on here is “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long,” which samples Wings’ “Arrow Through Me.” Yes: Paul McCartney, funk master.
Near the end, Badu tries to warn, “You don’t want to fall in love with me.” It’s impossible not to.