All hail the return of Erykah Badu!

Newamerykah_lErykah Badu has been more or less M.I.A. (the acronym, not the British/Sri Lankan emcee) for the better part of a decade. Since she dropped Worldwide Underground to lukewarm reception in ’03, we devotees have been forced to make do with various meager substitutes for her transcendent psychedelic-soul powers. At one point, she was reportedly working on not one but three comeback albums to be released over the course of 2007…none of which actually materialized. But! The self-proclaimed “analogue girl in a digital world” is now assuring us that she’ll be back for real on Feb. 26, when she’s releasing the aptly titled New Amerykah. And the teasers that have floated up through the ether over the past few days have been enough to drive this fan wild with anticipation.

First, the potential album cover (pictured). Unclear whether this will turn up on the final CD art or not, but I’m loving the image of Erykah as far-out high priestess, all the evils and joys of this crazy world tangled up in her capacious ‘fro. New Amerykah‘s a complicated place: I spy guns, tanks, a flooded New Orleans home, a Masonic eye-pyramid, a syringe, a garish dollar sign, and some oil derricks — all of which are, perhaps, partially counterbalanced by the blooming flowers, spinning turntables, righteous fists, ancient Egyptian ankh, and divine tuning fork scattered among them. And, putting that thicket of geopolitical/spiritual imagery aside for a moment, how badass are those three-finger block-letter rings she’s rocking on each hand?

Of course, image ain’t everything. Good thing a track from the albumalso leaked to the Web this week, so we can judge Erykah’s new sounds —which turn out to be something approaching mind-blowing. "The Healer"(check it out below, or on any number of Google-able blogs) is aslow-winding incantation to the magic of hip-hop. The thick, swirlingbackdrop of bell tones and indecipherable chants comes courtesy of Calisample maestro Madlib, who’s rapidly becoming my bar-none favoriteproducer of the moment. And Erykah knocks the beat straight out of thepark; her spaced-out coo has rarely sounded more hypnotic.

I’m putting this out there right now: Even in its possiblyincomplete leaked form, "The Healer" just shot to the top few slots ofmy embryonic ’08 year-end list. And Iknow for a fact that no less a cultural authority than myman M. Slezak currently has this song on infinite repeat. Look,I’m begging you, just listen to it already! And please, join the chorusof worshipful bliss in the comments — or, if you must, tell us whyon earth you’re not digging this tune.

Comments (17 total) Add your comment
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  • Phil

    Simon if you were the SUCH the Badu fan, you’d have blogged about the release of her actual “first” single, “HONEY” on iTunes back in November & not this leaked YouTube song. As always your posts are laughable as ever. *GOLF CLAPS*

  • Sally in Chicago

    She needs a good head combing. Sorry but that ‘fro sucks.

  • Sally in Chicago

    She needs a good head combing. Sorry but that ‘fro sucks.

  • nunya

    i love erykah badu. women like her and (hopefully the soon back in action) lauryn hill replenish my faith in recently lackluster R&B. great post, simon! (oh yea, this song is the hotness).

  • ChrisChicago

    No offense to Simon, because I am really digging the love for Erykah, but my thoughts were pretty much the same as Phil, in that I thought Honey was the first single from this album and therefore should have sparked this post. No matter though, because what is truly important is the drawing attetion to this incredible artist. Can’t wait for Feb. 26!

  • Kathleen

    Man. She’s amazing. As far as I’m concerned, she’s inherited the High Priestess of Soul title. Not to mention that single occupied a hole in my soul that I thought only a new Portishead tune could fill.

  • jennifer

    Chick’s a goddess…she can spit on a record and i’ll buy it..32 more days!

  • Laurie

    I am so excited – I just called Tyrone.

  • Fatima

    Would some of you just shut up? Jeez, this song is better than Honey and there is a crazy cool image to put up with it! What the hell do you want? I love Erykah so much I can hardly contain my excitement.

  • Phil

    Fatima…the point is by purchasing “HONEY” on iTunes you are supporting Erykah, by streaming this song on YouTube, you are not.

  • to Phil

    By listening to this on YouTube, I have decided to definitely go out and purchase the Badu disc the day it’s in stores. So what do you have to say to that? Booyah!

  • Phil

    To To Phil….
    If you provide the UPC barcode at the back of the disc, along with a copy of your original receipt, I MAY actually believe you!
    If you purchase the album digitally, please provide the iTunes receipt reference number emailed you a day after the transaction is completed!
    Or I could just check the Billboard charts a week later and see how many people actually purchase the full album….
    I receive more than enough music for FREE but I still go out and SPEND money on music. Most people today feel they don’t have to buy music, its there’s for the taking. YES, this post is to promote the release of Erykah’s new album, but how Simon could make this post WITHOUT even mentioning the proper single or its availability is a further testament of whats wrong with the people today who don’t properly support the artists they claim to LOVE. Music is to be bought, not to be stolen.

  • JoeC

    I actually agree with Phil: I still like to purchase music, not download it. I guess they call it ‘old school.’
    And by the way, I heard ‘Honey’ on Sirius Radio(free plug there) and I loved it. She definitely has her own sound.

  • Phil

    To anyone who hasn’t seen the video for “Honey” yet, not only is it crazy cool great, its message is pure and simple, BUY MUSIC and SUPPORT LOCAL MOM & POP RECORD STORES that are sure to be as extinct as Tower Records now is! I just caught the video last night, but it totally mirrors my comments last week about going out and supporting the artist, but I had no idea Erykah would also be sending that message in the video for the 1st single! The video is great, and the message makes it even greater! I saw it on AOl’s Popeater.

  • The Garden of Peace

    First let me say that I am with you…whooohooo for the return of Badu…we have been waiting, and it looks like our wait is finally over. I was able to see here when she was in Barbados for the 2008 Jazz Festival and let me say she ROCKED THAT ISH! That was my first time seeing her live and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND any and everyone to go see her if you can…you will NOT be disappointed…a beautiful blend of freestyle, hip-hop, funk, world, soul…everything…

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