Back in the day, an artist’s statement was as long as it needed to be. A full 78 minutes weren’t always necessary to convince the consumer that they were getting enough boogie for their buck—faith in the artist was all that was needed. But, alas, we live in a day where your average hip-hop release has more interludes and “skits” than actual good songs. Though it clocks in at a generous 50 minutes, Erykah Badu’s Worldwide Underground is being touted as an EP. Even “Back In the Day (Puff)”—a piece of hot-boxing nostalgia featuring Lenny Kravitz—laments “all that music we used to love, growing up before there was a four-minute limit.” But limitless doesn’t always mean better: two tracks, “Bump It,” an ode to the production of music, and the promising “I Want You,” a pulsating love poem, can only be described as overlong jam sessions with little-to-no structure and bucketsful of semi-squandered potential. Badu has always lacked the focus, range and wit of Jill Scott, but her music’s inventive and organic arrangements have always kept her loopy songwriting in check. Worldwide Underground‘s cover art signals the death of “neo-soul” and the birth of “Freakquency,” which also happens to be the name of the production team behind this mess of a record. This time—with the exception of the menacing “Danger” and “Love of My Life Worldwide,” easily the most commercially viable and, not coincidentally, strongest songs on the album—it all seems less daring than it does just plain indulgent.
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