In ancient Egypt, the hieroglyphic character of the ankh at the fingertips of a goddess symbolized eternal life. If Erykah Badu's "cipher keeps moving like a rolling stone," as she so coquettishly proclaims in the legendary single "On & On" from her dazzling 1997 debut, Baduizm, her latest opus, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, the follow-up to 2008's critically acclaimed New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War, represents the point in Erykah's career where she has traveled that cipher's full 360 degrees and been revitalized. The new album, a warm recital of personal philosophies on love and heartbreak, marries the understated wit of the old Erykah to the sonically venturesome new Erykah. On New Amerykah Part Two, structured ballads and airy jam sessions coexist peacefully in the same soulful arena.
Indeed, Erykah Badu's soul is a beautiful, elusive thing. It popped up from the water with three dollars and six dimes. It popped up in the Bag Lady who was gonna miss her bus because she was carrying too much stuff. Some of it told her ole man to call Tyrone to help him come get his shit. A lot of it cried warm salty tears for her green eyes when she discovered love could indeed hurt like this. Throughout her career, Badu has both controllably and uncontrollably given herself to her music. With New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, Badu defers to the fickle stew of emotions, laments, aspirations, and rants that strong spirits are made of, the same stew of naked passion that has made her entire body of work such a visceral success.