24 December 2015

REVIEW: Erykah Badu - You Caint Use My Phone

CALL HIM...hold on...
But you caint use MY Phooooone...

A line from Erykah Badu's iconic freestyle "Tyrone" off of 1997's Live album has easily been one of the most memorable lines in her twenty-plus year career. It is also the song most long-time fans identify with the most. As a result, the Queen has found a way to reel in her long-time fan base by revisiting her biggest record and marrying it with a relateable theme to the modern listener. You Caint Use My Phone is Erykah's first project after a five year hiatus from music. Her previous releases, New Amerykah Parts I & II in 2008 and 2010 respectively, were originally supposed to be a part of a trilogy. The third album in the series never materialized as Erykah had grown weary of placing a time table on her work. She had also taken a five year hiatus between 2003's Worldwide Underground and 2008's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War). These gaps in releases often cause fans to wonder "Where has Erykah been!?" Many aren't even aware her last two albums exist due to no chart topping singles and only one identifiable song "Window Seat," but even that song is only popular for Badu letting her ass cheeks out in the video. Needless to say, the Queen has been gone for far too long.

Erykah has brought back that eclectic vibe on You Caint Use My Phone, but instead of hitting fans over the head with thought provoking social commentary, she uses this technologically driven era (with heavy influence from a popular Drake hit) to pen covers of popular phone-related classics, shining light on society's reliance upon devices to communicate. If there was an underlying theme to this tape, it is that we are losing the ability to communicate face to face effectively due to mobile devices.

This tape blends R&B, Jazz, Electronica, Hip-hop, Trap, and Soul together in a way that makes it one of her most listenable projects ever. It probably won't go down as a classic in her catalogue, but it is more than enough to re-introduce herself to a new generation. The intro vamps the famous line from "Tyrone," solidifying the theme early. After a brief interlude with "Hi," Badu jumps into her rendition of Drake's "Hotling Bling" with "Cel U Lar Device." Now this is just my opinion, but this is a far better version than Drake's clown-fest, mostly because she does so much more with the song creatively and vocally.

You Caint Use My Phone is littered with similarly-themed covers such as New Edition's "Mr. Telephone Man," and Usher's "U Don't Have To Call," but her original songs on the tape are the ones you will be revisiting the most. "Phone Down" hilariously pokes fun at people who can't resist burying their faces in their phones when they are in a setting where everyone should be socializing.

Some may wonder why Drake was chosen as her main guest star on this project, but it seems she uses his influence to help her bridge the generational gap. There also seems to be a mutual respect of each other's talent, as Drake has extended verses on two tracks in addition to Badu covering one of his songs. His features pale in comparison to the surprise found on the mixtape's final track "Hello." The unicorn known as Three Stacks appears in a long overdue duet that perfectly fits both of their styles, and is a great song to conclude with. This probably isn't a hint that Andre 3000 is working on anything himself, but it's always nice to know that the guy still cares about (and can still help create) great music.

You Caint Use My Phone is a very short listen, clocking in at only 36 mins long, but it accomplishes much in that short amount of time that will keep listeners coming back. Seeing a legend become inspired again is always great for fans. Let's just hope the Queen doesn't take another five-year break before blessing us with something else.

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