Album Review: Erykah Badu – But You Can’t Use My Phone

Review by Sean Lynch

RIYL: Andre 3000, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott

Recommended Tracks: Track 1 – “Caint Use My Phone”; Track 4 – “Phone Down”; Track 11 – “Hello”

Grade: B+

Erykah Badu seemed to have dropped off the map for a couple of years after the release of her 2010 album New Amerykah Part Two. Badu worked on projects with artists including Flying Lotus and Tyler the Creator, but she never created a solo project during that span. In 2013, she talked about a potential album, but it never came to fruition. But You Caint Use My Phone serves as a step back into solo projects for Badu. The mixtape gives us sweet samples of soul and R&B powered by Badu’s sonorous voice.

“Caint Use My Phone (Suite)” carries an atmospheric vibe throughout the song. The spacy track has an eerie whooshing that builds up to heavier synths. Badu’s voice sounds shrill but slowly comes back down as the effects begin to slow.

“Phone Down” uses a complex drum beat and highlights Erykah Badu’s vocal performance. Badu’s voice echoes on through the track but still keeps a strong sound as it bounces back. The song plays with the idea of putting our phones away in a time which we can’t keep our hands off of them through lyrics like “I can make you put your phone down/ Leave it at the crib, guarantee you wouldn’t miss it,”

“Hello” is a reworking of the Isley Brothers hit “Hello It’s Me”. Andre 3000 sounds really different from his OutKast days. Andre comes in with a really rapid rap, contrary to his usually laid-back style. The wordplay from Andre’s rapid verses lead to a fluid transition back to Badu to cap it all off.

But You Caint Use My Phone creates a classic hip hop-style mixtape. Much like her appreciation to a traditional telephone, Badu finds the right beats to build upon her own creative ideas. There is a testament to old school through samplings of artists like Uncle Jamm’s Army and the Egyptian Lover and The Isley Brothers. In a time of progression and looking at the future, Badu turns back the clock to creation of the roots of rap and R&B.


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