Today is being lovingly called Du’s Day around Cyberspace, the day New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh drops, so I’ll play along too. Who am I, as an admitted adoring fan, to rock the boat and do something different? Wait, I despise Groupthink, but I’ll join in just this once.
New music for me is a process. It’s like reading a magazine. I start off by turning the pages, through the whole magazine, looking at the glossy pictures and scoping for titles that pique my interest. I put it down and return to it later when I actually have time to focus on reading something. With new music, if it’s a whole offering, I listen to the 1st 30 seconds of each track. If I’m not hooked by then, I move on. Most music gets a pass these days, as in “I’ll pass,” and never gets listened to again unless by mistake. I’m wrong on occasion, but I’m pretty successful at spotting hit singles and identifying the tracks that really knock on my soul and will be the ones I ride with instead.
Ms. Badu got me at first listen with Baduizm. I played it to death like most folks did. But I wasn’t sold completely. Something about the vocals made me think she’d be fluke live and my fanhood remained backdoor at best. No homo. She wasn’t an instant sangin’ sensation in my mind like Jilly from Philly. As far as I was concerned, Erykah had a little more to prove. First opp to check her live came up and I bought my tickets all ready to be disappointed. I was wrong. My backdoor fan pass took a seat on a porch swing where I could wave to passersby and invite them in to join my new thinking: this woman is the fluthamuckin TRUTH!! I hadn’t seen artistry like that before. She knew her lane and stayed in it vocally, but she certainly wasn’t afraid to try some thangs with her gravy drippin’ voice. After that though, her recordings took me a long minute to get into.
Nas cured me of buying folks’ stuff just because I loved them. After a while Nas couldn’t be trusted to move me, the years between It Was Written and Stillmatic, and I had to take him on a track-by-track basis. CD’s cost too damn much to just be blindly following cats. So Erykah was on probation. I liked parts of Mama’s Gun, but she didn’t wow me with it. I bought it to support the existence of the Neo Soul genre, but played it to death to figure out where I was at with it, not because it grabbed me instantly. Worldwide Underground was the same way. I eventually grew into it like the hand me down that it was. It was years after it came out and I had given up on it that I listened to it in a friend’s car on a road trip and fell in love. A car did that for me with D’Angelo’s Voodoo. In my house it just wasn’t doing it for me.
I was still bumpin Worldwide like it had just dropped when New Amerykah Part One was released. With her hand on my back to brace me, Erykah reached into my chest and stole my heart. Officially. It’s a wrap. She may not have asked for me, but I certainly belong to her. It’s in an uncanny way though. You’ve perhaps noticed me mentioning the kindred Piscean spirit thing. I often feel like Yeyo Badu is doing the things that I want to do. In my mind I’m a painter and a photographer. I’m a songwriter and a singer. I’m bigger than the writer and the dancer chick. I’m a fashionista and a maverick. I carry a bucket of paint and lay down the lines for my very own lane. That’s Erykah for me. She confirms my resistance of moving in packs.
Even with all Erykah Badu, the woman, does for me, I’m still having a lapse between my love of her and her music. I’ve listened to New Amerykah Part Two in the house and in the car. And…I got nothing. It feels like she was digging for inspiration and couldn’t find it so she started recycling. She recycled Biggie more than once, recycled her own quotables from previous albums, and recycled the feel of music from some other era that doesn’t exactly connect with my now. It could be that now The Analog Girl In A Digital World has conformed, while encouraging us not to, and gone digital herself. At times I felt like I was having a picnic in an elevator. This too, I believe, will require the passage of time and my personal commitment to self to dissect the meaning of her lyrics, even when the music it’s laid over makes my spirit tired.
So, I’m choosing to keep the hope that was stoked by the much talked about video for Window Seat. While many are still dazed by the unexpected opportunity to see that 3 kids can be a blessing to the body and not a curse, I chose to ride with the artistic vision of it all. I like the brazenness required to walk down a city street and strip down to the suit gifted her by birth and make a point. The soft porn, in the minds of lesser beings, will require some to watch the video many times before even noticing that there is indeed a song along with it. When they finally catch up I hope the message at the end, that challenges us all to reject GroupThink, seeps deep into their frontal lobes and plants a seed. Going against the grain is lonely
Maybe 2 years from now, when Badu is on to her next incarnation, her next wig, her next concept, 4 more aliases added to the list on the T-shirt I just bought from her official site, her next rapper baby daddy, and her next challenge to us all, I may like this current new CD. For now, I’m cool with having my fandom being genuinely about the woman, no homo, that she is and not fickle based on whether her music moves me today. Badu is an artist, and that’s all she is. We can come to the gallery to gawk, we may even walk away liking some of it, but in the end, it ain’t about you or me. Erykah speaks her heart and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Purchase New Amerykah, support genuine artistry and make your own decisions about it. If you’re like me, and don’t feel it immediately, still ponder what GroupThink means and how much you participate in it. Should you find that you belong to a bunch of packs, run right out to your nearest home-improvement store, buy a can of paint, and start drawing your own lane.
Watch me move.