You, you built a wall
A 20 foot wall
So I couldn’t see
But if I get off my knees
I might recall
I’m 20 feet tall
– Erykah Badu “20 Feet Tall”, New Amerykah Part 2: Return of the Ankh
Yes, Erykah Badu will walk through Daley Plaza in Dallas to the spot where JFK was shot, singing her floaty I-need-space anthem “Window Seat,” while disrobing in a one-take video inspired by Matt and Kim’s “Lesson Learned” video where the Brooklyn duo strips down to their pre-civilization birthday suits in the center of Times Square, looking around like stunned members a “lost tribe” from the Amazon at the neon blinkery, only to get [SPOILER ALERTS] beaten by NYPD and then smushed by a bus. Badu looks deliberate and driven as she sheds article after article of clothing and glances skyward from time to time. Tattooed on her back: EVOLVING.
As if maybe we have to be willing to walk around nude – or, preliminarily, choose the side of the people who think people have a right to walk around nude, and at least understand why they would want to – at some point in the coming future as things progress in whatever direction they seem to be going. Because if we remembered that we were 20 feet tall, we wouldn’t worry over walking around nude – Avatar showed me that. Now.
After Badu is naked, she gets shot in the head and blue blood leaks out spelling GROUPTHINK – the same stuff that didn’t get the Kennedy assassination investigated. Badu stated that the video is intended to jump-start a conversation on Groupthink.
What is Groupthink? It’s what keeps us moving in a human herd with the choices we make every day. It’s the control; and the control of the control. Thumb-scanning to clock in for a job. Phone bits hanging out our ears and uncomfortable iPod earphones digging in. Conditioned automatic behaviors and lack of imagination, maybe. Official story-swallowing. Stiff necked-ness. Flouridated, manipulated.
Well, on Erykah Badu’s new album, New Amerykah Pt 2: Return of the Ankh, the funked-out self-defense diva is back to deliver a set of thoughtful grooves designed to chip away at your groupthinking cap, at least it seems to me.
Neo Soul, termed in a splashing of 1990s media is really just thinking – that is, non commercial R&B (Erykah even coos/woos the greenbacks, increasingly robotically, in “Turn Me Away (Get Munny),” a poppy song covering yes, Junior Mafia).
Like Maxwell coming back last summer with a fade, astral-projecting (in the video for “Pretty Wings”) wearing charcoal slacks, on this dispatch, Erykah is out of the skin as well (not just her clothes).
On the album cover, the hazel eyes/hypnotizing Ms. Badu personage that we think we know is rendered as a smooth but bolted-together robot with mysterious “prehistoric” or is that Biblical / Sophia Stewart’s Third Eye scenarios growing out of her retractable-roof metal dome…
(Despite my media-buying preferences, formerly stated, I downloaded the album from iTunes. It definitely is nice to see the cover art enlarged on the screen. Almost as good as seeing it on a record album cover. Anyway.)
New Amerykah Pt 2: Return of the Ankh features ear-tweaking analog tweets, mattress-creak samples and heart-on-sleeve-wearing. As well as Lil’ Wayne – on a song called “Jump Up in the Air and Stay There,” he and Erykah get spiritual in one breath and and get on “silly shit” with the next.
Even broken down is the concept that there are only two emotions: fear and love. Like the updated Howard Beale speech from Network on her previous album, New Amerykah: Fourth World War, she still seems mad as hell and not really about to take it anymore, basically, just methodically and prodding warbling baseline-wise, taking us through sonic caves featuring the darker sides of human/human and human/robot relationships but bear with the woman. The album is almost like watching her construct a metaphysical defense shield and strategize for what comes next, with an option to dance. Yes, the return.