"If my album leaks, I'm not putting it out. Let a b***h make some money." Most of the evening has been one Earthy, emotive and cerebral experience, but Erykah Badu is clear. Don't mess with her art or her money.
For much of the night, at Quad Studios in New York, the Dallas-born creative has been fielding questions and compliments from a bunch of musicians, journalists and well wishers who have convened for a series of intimate listening sessions for the Badu's new album.
Badu's tone changes dramatically after a cell phone is discovered on one of the participants. Badu and her people have taken everybody's cell phone and closely monitor anything that may result in a leak.
Such are the problems of an Analog Girl in a Digital World. A website leaked a terribly recorded version of one of her most promising songs.
"Jump In The Air And Stay There" is an ambitious posse cut that features Lil Wayne, crooner Bilal and nine other MC's that contribute 16 bars."Each rapper on there has his own version of the song," Badu explains a marketing aspect to the song. "Everybody on there sounds drunk." The crowd applauds and guffaws hysterically.
"I'ma B-girl for life," Badu tells AllHipHop.com of professing her love for Hip-Hop. "I write like an emcee."
Whereas she may have a particular writing technique, the singer is very formless in her approach to music.
"There aren't a lot of explanations - it just is what it is," she maintains right before she plays her latest offering. "Put your people ears on and welcome to New Amerykah."
New Amerykah, Part II: The Ankh has been in the works for several years, a creation that has run concurrently with other albums, including 2008s New Amerykah: Pt.1: 4th World War.
Badu says she recorded some 52 songs for this one, but honestly doesn't know the real number.
As the songs play, the audience of taste-makers is impressed. A pair of bald, attendees are in their personal glee, bobbing their heads incessantly to the Badu-riffic sounds.
During the listening portion, Badu lays on the ground looking up to the ceiling or maybe the universe. Only Badu knows what pistons are firing in her mind.
In the Q&A segment of the evening, she offers some insight on several tracks.
On "Fall In Love," Badu addresses the urban legend of the power she's allegedly held over the rappers she's dated (word to Andre 3000, Common and Jay Electronica, who is in attendance).
"I'm giving them a little warning. You don't want to fall in love me," she says. "That was inspired by me and the urban legend I've created." The crowd loves it.
She continues to explain to one person that seems unaware of the rumors.
"You know," she details, "urban legend. You're not supposed to look [Badu] right in the eye. I'm so harmless."`
It would appear that Badu is totally comfortable being her, minus some of the external trappings and she explains why via a revealing story about a trip to Cuba. Nevertheless, she looks fine with her hair pulled back in a purple top and latex pants.
Erykah is fine.
She's got a reputation for the mysterious, but she's also has the distinction of being one of the most creative acts of our generation.
She is already preparing the album after New Amerykah, Part II, a work called Lowdown Loretta Brown.
Here's the first look at New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh. "20 Feet Tall" (produced by 9th Wonder)Song tone: Song is reminiscent of New Amerykah, Part I, but then eases into "20 Feet," a duet that ends with kids screaming happily.Favorite lyrics: You built a wall 20 feet tall / But if I get off my knees / I might recall Im 20 feet tall "Window Seat" (produced by Erykah Badu and James Poyser) The pace picks up with Window Seat and harder drums and crooning evoke the old Erykah Badu. The song ends with a jarring mish-mash of psychedelic sounds. Favorite lyrics:"Can I get a window seat...I don't want nobody next to me." "I need you to want me / And I need you to miss me / I need your attention / I need you next to me / I need someone to clap for me" "Agitation" (produced by Shafiq Husayn) "Agitation" also ends abruptly, but before that the song is flush with hard drums, a jazzy piano with an overlay of heavy bass. Badu plays the back, but sings "What a day." "Get Money" (produced by Erykah Badu, James Poyser, Karriem Riggins and Thundercat) While Badu is very much her own celestial star, this song is one that will pull regular humans into her galaxy as it employs the same sample as Get Money by Junior M.A.F.I.A. The crowd was easing into a frenzy over this song, especially the aforementioned bald gentlemen. Crowd applauds. Favorite lyrics: Cant turn me away / I believe in your heart / I always want to stay. "Dont Be Long" (produced by TaRaach) Do you have the number to that other bass player? Badu says before "Don't Be Long" starts. The song then delves into a super funky and futuristic bassline that sets the tone for the whole song. Favorite lyrics:Go baby, go baby / Go be gone, I know youve got to get your hustle on. "I feel like a girl with a fiendish crush." "Love" (produced by J. Dilla) Love is a short diddy that the internets will probably have fun with and eventually extend it into something longer. Who knows...it sure is fun while it lasts. Favorite lyrics: "You loving me and I'm f***ing ya friend...that's terrible, ain't it?" "Umm Hmm" (produced by Madlib) This one features a sped-up vocal sample and is crowded, playing like a vintage record straight from the crates. You cant hide / Calm down baby let me go / I love how you make me feel, she sings. "Fall in Love" (produced by Karriem Riggins) "Fall In Love" samples Eddie Kendricks's "Intimate Friends" and has been used by Alicia Keys and Death Row singer Sweet Sable in the 90's. A nice record that will certainly pull in less creative minds and Badu's usual crowd with familiarity. She also uses a lot of references to the late Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls. This song is a nod to Common, Andre 3000 and perhaps Jay Electronica, her current love interest. Favorite lyrics:Slow singin and flower bringin / If my burglar alarm starts ringin" "You don't wanna fall in love with me." "Incense" (produced by Madlib) This cosmic track is all instrumental, but fits nicely into the overall theme of New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh. "incense" takes shape slowly. First off, a harp plays, then a deep bass and the song takes its full soul-filled form. "Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 1) (Undercover Over-Lover)" (produced by James Poyser)"Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 1)" aka "Undercover Over-Lover" represents one of the most appealing songs from a lyrical perspective. The track evokes a long gone era in Harlem and Badu is a jazz singer with just a piano. And even as this is set in the past, Badu manages to leap into the future. On the song she sings, "I'd chop and screw for you" and when she croons, the vocal actually gets adjusted with the deep, slowed down chop and screwed affect. Favorite lyrics:Im a recovering undercover over-lover / Recovering from a love I cant get over / Recovering undercover over-lover / And now my common law lover thinks he wants another." "I guess I'm a fool for you." "Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 2)" (produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow) This song presented a very off-beat track that even that bald critics found difficult to catch. Alas, the beat was found and loved. Badu explained the unorthodox approach to music. "It just comes," she said. This track was for Georgia Anne Muldrow, who serves as the song producer. The song and album ends with a cadre of joyful children yelling, "YAY!" Favorite lyrics:Could this be love? / From high no frontier / Who is this guy / You are so wise / Im so gone / By summertime, youd had it all / Build a wall ten feet tall / Now I laugh at it all