Music is an artform. I appreciate artists who set out to be bold, innovative, and uncompromising in creating the type of music they want to create. I am most moved by artists today who have the same rebellious spirit reminiscent of those folks from the Harlem Renaissance. In the same way that those artists refused to sell out and manufacture a perfectly packaged and marketed product, there exists today artists of a similar kind who will give you the truth. No matter how brutally honest or sharply poignant, there are artists today who will just give it you real.
Now of course, I don't have the monopoly on good taste, and all of this is my opinion. There were plenty of fun and even great music produced this year. But, after a year that belonged to Lil Wayne, Britney Spears, Beyonce, and Kanye West (among others), one sleeper masterpiece has been a constant on my Ipod. Twenty years from now, I predict, Erykah Badu's latest will be as relevant and timeless as it is today. "New Amerykah" takes you on a journey. It is a specific journey routed in self discovery, revelation, struggle, pride, dispair, and hope.
New Amerykah: This album is pure soul music. There is a conscious message. There is something funky about it. It's a little sixties and a little modern R&B. As some points, you even think she may be high but that does not distract from the powerful imagery she creates with her shrill and soulful voice. You can listen to it from start to finish with skipping a track. The CD was a pleasant surprise as "Honey" (the most commercial of the tracks) is not like the other songs on the record. And with the election of Barack Obama, and the current debate and civil protests surrounding the same sex marriage issue -- accompanied by the release of Gus Van Zant's powerful and deeply moving "Milk" -- there seems to be a renewed sense of political activism as we all, all of US begin to take back our democracy in hopes of reclaiming the contract with the American Dream. This dream entitles us all equally to the pursuit of happiness. This message is clear in Erykah Badu's "New Amerykah." For this and so many other reasons, "New Amerykah" is my favorite album of 2008.