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Album Review: Erykah Badu - But You Caint Use My Phone

Photo via Consequence of Sound

By Jonathan Fuchs, Copy Editor

[Motown; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Key Tracks: “Cel U Lar Device,” “Phone Down,” “Hello”

Erykah Badu is one of the biggest names in modern R&B and soul. With albums like Baduizm and Mama’s Gun under her belt, she’s become legendary for her funky instrumentals as well as her distinct vocals and stage presence. With more concept-based releases like the New Amerykah albums, she has proven herself to be one of the greatest acts of the early 21st century.

But You Caint Use My Phone is the first release from Badu in five years. The cell phone-themed mixtape began to gain attention with her remix of Drake’s summer hit “Hotline Bling” (known on the album as “Cel U Lar Device”), which is arguably better than the original. While the new release has some odd moments, it’s still great as a whole and has some of the best R&B songs of the year.

“Cel U Lar Device” is the highlight track of the album, with the “Hotline Bling” beat at the beginning perfect for Badu’s voice and the jazz influence at the end serving as a fresh take on the song. Other shining moments include “Phone Down,” a trap inspired song with excellent production and use of auto-tune, and “Medley: What’s Yo Phone Number / Telephone (Ghost of Screw Mix),” a fun hip-hop track with a tremendous beat and fun verses from Badu and ItsRoutine. “Hello,” a great duet between Badu and André 3000 from Outkast, is another standout track as well as an amazing way to close the mixtape.

The less spectacular parts of But You Caint Use My Phone are the tracks that are under two minutes (“Hi,” “U Use to Call Me,” “U Don’t Have To Call,” “I’ll Call U Back”). These act like filler that only serve to move the album along instead of being their own original songs. “Dial’Afreaq,” in particular, feels too weird and out-of-place compared to the other tracks on the album.

Nevertheless, But You Caint Use My Phone is a very fun album that will meet fans’ expectations and acts as a great addition to Badu’s discography. While it’s less thought-provoking than her other albums, it’s still worth a listen.

#jonathanfuchs #erykahbadu #albumreview #butyoucaintusemyphone

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