Motown Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/05/2001
Erykah Badu is an artist who continues to impress me.
Admittedly, I haven't followed r&b as closely as I probably should, so I won't claim to have a superior knowledge of the scene as it is today. But I do like what Badu is doing with her music. Mama's Gun, her second full-length outing (not including the closet-cleaner Heartache, released under her given name of Erykah Wright) and first release since 1997's Live, proves that the success Badu had was absolutely no fluke.
It's easy now to sit back and hear how Badu influenced artists like Macy Gray, or how Badu is embodying all of the positive qualities of r&b/soul from the '70s and early '80s - things people either didn't see or didn't know to look for when Baduizm first hit the streets. But now, Badu is a more mature artist, having gone through the end of a relationship and having to deal with the success she faced right out of the gate. There's pain in some of these songs, but there's also hope - and the listener is taken on a spiritual re-awakening through Mama's Gun.
One of the most moving tracks for me is "In Love With You," a duet with Stephen Marley (who sounds hauntingly like his late father) which captures the raw emotion between a man and a woman powerfully and eloquently. Likewise, tracks such as "Kiss Me On My Neck (Hesi)", "Orange Moon" and "Time's A Wastin" all demonstrate the pure mastery that Badu has with this material.
A technique which doesn't always work well - going from one song to another with little or no segue - actually works to Badu's advantage on Mama's Gun. She doesn't do this for the entire album, though - and by focusing her attention on tracks like "My Life," "...& On" and "Cleva," she helps to steer the focus of the listener to some of the more powerful performances on the disc.
This isn't to take away anything from the power of tracks like "Green Eyes" (which touches on the ending of a long-time relationship) or "A.D. 2000" (anyone wanna bet she doesn't take as much grief as Bruce Springsteen did for singing a song about Amadou Diallo?). Frankly, each listener will probably find their own emotional center on Mama's Gun, and mine just happened to fall in the first third of the disc (as well as on "In Love With You"). Doesn't mean you're wrong if you're more moved by "A.D. 2000".
Some people might have wondered what happened to Badu after the success of Baduizm. Mama's Gun is a disc that reminds people that Badu is still here, and that the time taken to re-energize her life's batteries proved to be time well spent.