Eccentric. Soulquarian. The Queen of Neo-Soul. There can only by one Erykah Badu. Since the talented singer-songwriter first debuted in the late 90s, Badu has only blessed the world with 5 studio albums. Yet she’s managed to redefine and help shape the entire modern soul movement. Badu also hasn’t released an album since 2010, but she somehow remains to be relevant in today’s culture. Without further ado, here are all of Erykah Badu’s studio albums ranked from worst to best.
5. Worldwide Underground (2003)
Last on this list is Worldwide Underground, but it doesn’t mean that this album is bad by any measure. It’s physically impossible for Badu to produce a subpar record, but one’s got to be better than the other, right? That’s how we found ourselves at this place, putting Badu’s third EP here. Worldwide Underground came out in 2003 to generally positive reviews, though it may not seem like it. The two albums that preceded Worldwide were gems, and it may have put a bit of pressure for this release to perform. You’ll catch glimpses of the familiar funk and soul that Badu is known for in tracks such as Love of My Life Worldwide. However, there’s a lot of fluff in between our favorite tracks, which Badu claims to have been intentional. Regardless, the album debuted at number 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
4. New Amerykah Part One (2008)
This album is as unique to her portfolio as Badu is to the industry. New Amerykah Part One is the reason we know for sure that Badu is way ahead of her time. Listening to the record now seems like it was just released yesterday, but the album is now 13 years old. There’s nothing else like it out there, and it’s pretty baffling. It’s surely her boldest release, as if she’s truly trying to start a 4th World War—the tagline on the album title. Part One of the two-part series is highly perceptive. Lyrically, New Amerykah is wildly ambitious. Badu tackled topics outside of the usual R&B and soul tropes. It could’ve been maturity on her part, a career move, or maybe just a true personal statement. Much of the initial leg work on the album was done solely by Badu herself, and that’s a testament to her genius. It sounds so different from what she’s done prior that listening to the album for the first time naturally brought shock and awe for many listeners. Whether you like it or not, we believe there’s method to her madness; it’s just not always easy to understand.
3. New Amerykah Part Two (2010)
It’s the Return of the Ankh. New Amerykah Part Two makes slightly more sense than Part One for sure. If anything, it presents a much more progressive flow. Part Two is a retreat to the kind of sound that Badu became beloved for. Easy going and soulful, this album invites us back to Badu’s party, where the previous part of the series asked us to go home. Tracks such as Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long and Umm hmm reminds us of 70s soul so much—you can’t help but just vibe to the groove of this record. There are a couple of head-scratchers in the album, such as the minute-long You Loving Me, but Badu being confident in herself and her music is probably just that. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the 10-minute long aside with Out of My Mind, Just in Time. It’s a stunning musical piece, but it might’ve been unnecessary.
2. Baduizm (1997)
The album that started it all. Baduizm was clearly the product of genius. Rich in soul and originality, Badu’s first studio album was a monumental achievement in music. She managed to weave and bridge old school into the new, and it was unexpectedly great. Tracks such as On and On established Badu on a category all on her own. She may be compared to the likes of Billie Holiday, but could Billie really pull off a freestyle skit such as Afro? Perhaps. But that’s not the point. Baduizm was promise-filled with pomp and circumstance, and it remains to be a riveting journey from song to song. Baduizm is representative of Badu’s artistic vision, but we believe it falls behind just another album. This doesn’t take away from the greatness of this debut at all. We just believe that Badu outdid herself with the next one.
1. Mama’s Gun (2000)
Although not as successful as Badu’s debut release, Mama’s Gun is an immaculate force of creativity. Erykah Badu clearly had it in mind to do better and be better—a high and tough glass ceiling to break. She did break that ceiling musically, but not everyone will agree. While Baduizm and Badu’s entire persona were both easy things to market, Badu wanted to let the world know that she didn’t just fit into the commercial-type box. More than she did with her first album, Badu presented herself as a true artist with Mama’s Gun. She sang about her spirituality and her philosophy, and tracks such as Didn’t Cha Know proved that songs could have true introspection without sacrificing style and groove. She gives a lot more depth here in tracks such as Bag Lady and Time’s A Wastin, and she even pulls off a relevant and much welcome 10-minute track (versus the one mentioned earlier) in Green Eyes. Mama’s Gun ended up being and sounding more freed and adventurous compared to Badu’s first album. Give both albums a listen and notice the nuances. Badu in Mama’s Gun is a much different person than the one in Baduizm—a much more grounded and comfortable one. She had grown wiser in the industry, and her songs showed it.