Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Erykah Badu: Mama's Gun [Universal, 2000]
Ms. Badu-to-you could have ridden her photogenic witchy-rootsy ambience/attitude down a flexigroove to iconicity. Instead she determined to rise up, doing for her songcraft what D'Angelo did for his funk. From "Here's my philosophy/We're living in a penitentiary" to "My eyes are green/Because I eat a lot of vegetables," she scores over and over on 14-tracks-in-72-minutes that miss maybe twice and only seem long-winded when she gives the flautist some. Maybe her sources are autobiographical, but she's here to inspire all black-identified women and the men who admire them. On "Cleva," she predicts you'll love her for her mind as her ninnies sag; on "Booty," she pulls more good stuff with her G.E.D. than you can with your Ph.D. And to prove how smart she is once and for all, she accentchuates her word power with structures, arrangements, hooks, the works. A