Sound Advice: Erykah Badu with Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey and more (April 27)

Joined by a stellar cast of Hip Hop and R&B artists, the Neo Soul icon headlines the Cincinnati Funk Festival at U.S. Bank Arena.

Apr 24, 2018 at 11:19 am
click to enlarge Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu established herself as the Queen of Neo Soul with her 1997 debut, Baduizm. Though she’s retained the crown, in the last eight years, the singer has released only one new collection of music, a mixtape dubbed But You Caint Use My Phone. The title is a riff on Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” an ear-wormy single that also features a hilarious video in which Drake dances modestly amid candy-colored, asymmetrical backdrops. “Hotline Bling” dropped in July 2015. But You Caint Use My Phone appeared five months later, which leads one to believe Badu wrote and recorded it in an inspired whirlwind — an unexpected turn of events for such a meticulous and heady artist who hadn’t put out new music in half a decade.

The result is both off the cuff and impressively textured, an R&B record anchored by Badu’s sensuous voice and oddball humor. The beats are programmed and guest voices abound, but it’s Badu’s show, and thematically she’s intent on delving into the downside of our obsession with cell phones — a technology she argues has distanced us much more than we realize.

But You Caint Use My Phone was a curious release for an artist who had spent the previous five years on hiatus, traveling to Africa in an effort to move into the next phase of her already unique career arc. But doing the expected has never been part of Badu’s artistic or personal priorities. The most recent evidence of her singular mind was this answer to a question posed during Pitchfork’s “Over/Under” series in which artists are asked whether a topic is overrated or underrated — the topic in this case being Fred Flintstone. “Definitely underrated,” she insisted. “Everybody loves Fred Flintstone. And those who don’t are fucking idiots. Fred is cool. I mean, Fred is a boss. He’s confident and he’s a loyal friend. You know, he treats Barn like shit a little bit. He’s not completely emotionally there for Wilma, but he’s very good to Dino. I don’t know how old he was when he impregnated Wilma with Pebbles, but he seemed to be a pretty good father. Maybe he had ran through all the hoes in Bedrock and he was ready to settle down.”

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