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Erykah Badu
WORLDWIDE UNDERGROUND EP
(Motown)
Stars graphics

Last year, having found her inspirational well run dry, Erykah Badu embarked on her "Frustrated Artist Tour" to jump-start her creative flow. The E.P. Worldwide Underground is the result of that exercise, and itís a spotty affair. Indeed, Badu is devoted to expanding her artistic vision, but Underground teeters precariously on the fine line between experimental and sloppy.

While Baduís previous recordings have glimmered with neo-soul styling, Afro-jazz-infused rhythms, and crafty songwriting, Underground is a freeform funk jam, and so the songwriting suffers while Baduís vocal performance is unusually raw. Rather than forging a "homemade-mixed-tape" quality, the disc ends up unfinished- sounding in places and overlong in others. Deliciously infectious riffs begun in "Bump It" and "I Want You" tire by the end of their respective eight and 10 minutes. And while "Drama" continues a moving story line about shacking up with a drug dealer from 1997ís Baduizm, the gravity gets lost as Badu and her man (amusingly) contemplate having to "flush the yeyo." "Back In the Day" and Donald Byrdís "Think Twice" are more in step with Baduís full faculties, but the latter track is clipped too soon, at barely three minutes. Alas, there are some clever ideas here, but they remain underdeveloped and poorly executed.

BY CHRISTOPHER JOHN TREACY


Issue Date: October 10 - 16, 2003
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