Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh (Universal Motown)

These days, seemingly everyone in hip hop and R&B constructs a complicated mythology around their albums. Erykah Badu is now getting in on the myth-making racket.

She says her new album is subtitled "Return of the Ankh," because the ankh is, like, her favorite symbol, and she is really, really into Egyptian mythology. Also, this is her "right brain" album, so she made it with her emotions, after Part One had been made exclusively with her left brain. So in addition to being a stirring neo-soul artist, Ms. Badu has the ability to totally compartmentalize her higher brain functions, which is no mean feat for someone in a 3-foot-tall headwrap.

You have to love Badu for all her pretensions, though. Remember when she talked about changing the spelling of her name from Erica to Erykah, because the former was her "slave name"? Her Afrocentrist, down-with-the-man flair is a huge part of her appeal. It's not a turn-off, it's a turn-on.

Mostly, this is due to her being an incredible artist who has never put out a bad record. And the new one gives Mama's Gun (2000) a run for its money in claiming the title of "Best Erykah Badu Record Ever." For example, on "Window Seat," she's all nasally croon, backed by layers of atmospheric, twinkling R&B groove; and "Turn Me Away (Get Munny)" is a perfect little poppy bass-funk gem.

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