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Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun (2000)

March 15, 2015

[Album 384/1001]220px-Erykah_Badu_-_Mama's_Gun

Talk about starting with a bang.

Considering the only other Badu tune I knew going in was (her very relaxed groove) On & On, the incendiary opener Penitentiary Philosophy was a 180.

But it’s a solid trip halfway around the circle – ?uestlove’s snare has more pop than a case of Canada Dry* & there’s nothing subtle or restrained here with Erykah’s vocals.

By the fourth track, ….& On, she returned full circle** to her more familiar smooth sound, adding a part deux to her 1997 hit On & On.

Other standouts in the first half, both for their somewhat questionable spelling and their unquestionable strength, include Cleva and Didn’t Cha Know.

Somewhere around the halfway mark of Mama’s Gun, everything slows down a bit and I started to lose track of the individual songs, despite several listens.

It reminded me a bit of Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours in that the singer and arrangements are never less than fine but because everything’s so subdued, the songs drift together into the background.

For track-listing purposes, this loud-to-soft/bold-to-beautiful running order was probably the right call, as Penitentiary Philosophy would have been even more surprising as an album closer.


*A brand of ginger-ale in Canada, also a land where soda is more commonly known as pop.  Comparisons are best when they have to be explained.

**Considering the speed of her full circle trip, perhaps she took the diameter shortcut in lieu of the more roundabout circumference route.  Happy 3.1415 (π) day everyone!

From → 2000s

  1. I admit, I don’t know a single Badu track…

  2. I like everything about this post. It has humour, smarts, tunes, thoughtful and insightful commentary, ¿uestlove… WELL DONE!

    I might disagree, however on Sinatra’s ITWSH. I never find Frank drifts into the background. Whenever I play his stuff (including this record, considered the first-ever concept album!) he is front and center, demanding my attention. I don’t believe I’ve played Mama’s Gun all the way through, so I can’t comment on Badu, though.

    • Gracias Aaron!
      ITWSH is where the 1001 book begins (the only entry from 1955) – I should give it another spin as someone else I was speaking with recently had similar comments. I have a feeling ITWSH needs to have the right setting for listening – some albums probably work in all contexts but that one’s probably most appropriate for the time of day it references!
      That being said, I remember he was still unmistakably Ol Blue Eyes, I just found the joie de vivre of Songs for Swingin’ Lovers reeled me in more.

  3. Also, tht cover art. Something about the colour and font choices… makes me think it’s a Bob Marley record, at first glance…

  4. As always I love your writing. More pop than Canada Dry…just great!

  5. Good stuff. I like this one a lot, though I do prefer her Worldwide Underground.

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  1. 2000-2005 | 1001albumsin10years

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