The millennium may have gotten off on a very glitzy note (both musically and image-wise), but such up-and-coming female urban artists as Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray, and Erykah Badu made sure that soul and hip-hop retained some of their natural roots. Most are quick to label Badu as a hip-hop artist, but her classic R&B leanings show that there is much more than meets the eye to the Billie Holiday-influenced Badu's formidable talent.
A true tour de force, Mama's Gun is that rare sophomore album that shows a maturing artist at her best. Erykah Badu's voice was always her main attraction--its unique sound has been compared to Billie Holiday and Chaka Khan. Here, it's her skill with that voice that shines. Badu shapes her instrument to suit her material (all of it written or cowritten by her). A full range is represented: On faster, danceable tracks like "Penitentiary Philosophy" and "Booty," she sounds gritty and funky. On softer, more introspective tracks, like "A.D. 2000" and the single "Bag Lady," she shows amazing restraint, letting her voice travel lightly over the notes, allowing the songs' emotions to guide her performance. The high point of the disc is Badu's duet with Stephen Marley, "In Love with You," easily the sweetest, truest love song of the year. That alone is reason enough to buy the disc--and you won't regret having done so. --Courtney Kemp
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