MIXTAPE REVIEW: Erykah Badu – ‘But You Caint Use My Phone’

Erykah Badu
Image source: groovevolt.com

Four years is a long time to wait for some music from one of R&B’s most authentic voices. Born Erica Abi Wright, Erykah Badu’s take on RnB, soul and jazz is as exotic as her stage name. Inspired by current chart-toppers Hotline Bling and Hello, Badu’s collaboration with Zach Witnessin resulted in a mixtape with 11 phone-themed songs and the birth of what she calls TRap&B. With only 2 features on the mixtape, Badu’s reliance on her own voice and instruments such as a tuning fork and Tibetan singing bowls, to create sympathetic vibrations – a balance between the frequency of the music and vibration – has a calm and peace that has come to identify itself as the singer’s speciality.

Caint Use My Phone takes its title from Badu’s 1997 hit Tyrone, and much like Hi, has Badu singing the same lines in repeat on a subdued bassline and electronica, with her layered vocals, edited to make for a rather calm yet trance flavored R&B track. Drake’s Hotline Bling is renamed Cel U Lar Device, and is an amazing re-telling of the pop-laced chart topper. Clocking under 7 minutes, Badu’s cover of the song combines elements of hip-hop, R&B, and psychedelia besides serving as the inspiration to Badu’s full-length work since 2010. On Phone Down, ItsRoutine and Badu share writing credits for a track that has elements of trip-hop and R&B in just the right proportions to make for a jazzy yet trance infused track.

In a reversal of roles of popular fashion, ItsRoutine, an Atlanta-based Drake impersonator freestyles on U Used To Call Me. Aubrey aka ItsRoutine, shares the same first name as Drake and his impersonation of the Bling rapper is so uncanny that Badu clarified the confusion on Twitter. On Mr. Telephone Man, there’s nothing much going on lyrically, although the production joins the likes of Phone Down and Cel U Lar Device. On U Don’t Have To Call, Badu lives up to her Billie Holiday comparisons, with a quirky take on the jazzy track. A medley of Badu and ItsRoutine’s What’s Yo Phone Number/Telephone sees the singer and rapper exchange verses and vocal runs.

Dial’Afreaq uses auto-tune and robotic will. I. Am styled nerdy rap to put some Badu styled propaganda to electronic beats. Drake’s influence is felt again on I‘ll Call U Back. To say that Bling didn’t influence this project is an understatement – after it influenced the singer to work on this 11-track mixtape in 12 days and dare I say, this is her best in four years.

You should know that anytime Andre 3000 is featured on a track it is a lyrical gem. Badu’s Hi is sampled on Hello. The fantastic rapper/singer and Badu’s ex-flame, works his magic and it’s hard not to recognise the magic the duo cook up on the song. From his wordplay to her vocal runs, Hello is the best that Badu has on the mixtape, besides the obvious others. There a few misses on the mixtape, but in a professional style they’ve been edited just right, although you can skip them right away if you wanted to. At the end of the almost 36-minute mixtape, Badu’s musical direction is definitely on point. Here’s to hoping that the Queen of the Soul Train, releases a full-length album sometime soon now that her muse is back.

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