10 Year Anniversary of New Amerykah Pt. 2
Badu’s fifth studio album, New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
About The Collection
Originally, New Amerykah Parts 1 and 2 were a part of a singular project, titled Lowdown Loretta Brown. Badu accrued instrumentation from a number of producers, whom she refers to as “scientists,” to create a mass collection of sounds.
She recalls working with 9th Wonder, Georgia Anne “Miss One” Muldrow, and James Poyser (who accompanied her on “Otherside of the Game,” and “Green Eyes”) to bring her ideas to the forefront. In the end, she realized that the tracks had different emotions attached to them, and could be split into two separate categories.
“New Amerykah Part 1 (4th World War) was the socio-political left brain,” she said. “Where its counterpart, [New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh)] had more melodic, fluid, lighter subjects.”
The artwork for the album was created by EMEK, a masterful silkscreen artist who has crafted a number of Badu’s show posters over the years. As the child of radical, free-thinking, political cartoonists, EMEK was able to connect with Badu on a visual and ideological level. “He finishes my musical sentences visually,” she shared.
When asked about how EMEK designed the cover art for New Amerykah Part 2, Badu said, “EMEK listened to the [album] and he just started to create. That’s how we always work — he’ll listen to the song or the album...he’ll ask me things about it. He’ll ask me things for clarity that he intuits or believes.”
On the cover, Badu is seen in two forms — as a suited being, and also as a smaller entity exiting her own mind. The suit represented the guarded person Badu had become, while the freed, tuning fork-wielding version of herself was breaking free. This polarity is indicative of the dual nature of the project itself, and can be seen in various ways throughout: Groupthink vs. Individuality, Accountability vs. Victimization, and Fear vs. Love.
"In my understanding, everything has a vibrational frequency," Badu said. "I studied...scientists and philosophers. African proverbs, and Native American proverbs. Tao Te Ching philosophy. And it all kind of narrows down to the same thing." She believes that all things move at a vibrational frequency, and these frequencies have a profound affect on us.
"If you measure the lower tones, they vibrate a lot slower. Higher tones vibrate a lot faster," she shared. Emotions follow this same concept, and thus is the root, and effect of the positive and negative energies that we live out. "Love looks like forgiveness, love looks like encouragement, honor, honesty, joy, gratitude, [and] giving. And fear looks like anger, it looks like denial, it looks like jealousy, envy, competitiveness — it looks like greed."
Of course, one of the biggest cultural moments of the 2010s was the video for "Window Seat," wherein Badu stripped herself of everything that did not propel her forward. "I was brave as fuck," she says with a hearty laugh. "There was no rehearsal for that, because it's something you just do...all I knew was, I was gonna drive to an area, park my car, and be documented performing a shedding of everything that did not evolve me, that's performance art."
The video's closing monologue summarized the ending. "They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand. They move in packs ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel most comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual. A single person within a circumstance can move one to change. To love herself. To evolve."
Such is the wisdom of Badu.
New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) was a return to Badu’s form in a sense — an invitation to emotional honesty in the midst of worldwide change.