Erykah Badu New Amerykah: Part 2: Return of the Ankh

Erykah Badu may arrive late, but she's always on time. Despite promising that 2008's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) would be the first of a trilogy to be released in short order, flash forward to 2010 to bear witness to only the second instalment in that exercise in ambitiousness. The biggest draw about the Dallas, TX-born Badu is her tendency to musically and lyrically challenge. But after alienating some with the digitally-infused dogma of New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), her fifth studio album tones down the political pretences to return to the live sound and sensual musings that many listeners are more comfortable with. While New Amerykah Part One jarred many out of their Badu-ism comfort zone, New Amerykah: Part 2: Return of the Ankh reins in the sonic pontificating that Badu is wont to do. The 9th Wonder-produced "20 Feet Tall" creates the sultry atmosphere ("But if I get off my knees/I might recall I'm 20 feet tall"), but it is "Window Seat" that sets the tone for the emotional exhortations that follow. With ?uestlove on drums, the laid-back jam is vintage beat-driven Badu ("Just want a ticket outta town/a look around/and a safe touch down"). "Turn Me Away (Get Munny)" craftily interpolates Sylvia Striplin's sweaty "Can't Turn Me Away" by way of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. sample. "Incense" intrigues; the Madlib-produced joint injects a haunting vibe and vocals befitting of the song's namesake. And "Fall in Love," produced by Karriem Riggins is a sly number referencing famous past loves (Common, Andre 3000 and Jay Electronica). The best thing about New Amerykah: Part 2: Return of the Ankh is hearing the progressive fusion of "Neo Soul" Badu with "Seasoned and Savvy" Badu together at last. Remember the rolling cipher Badu kept referring to on 1997's "On & On"? Consider the revolution complete. (Universal)