Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun (2000)
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!