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There’s a difference between batshit crazy and eccentric. It’s a fine line but Badu manages to stay firmly on the right side of it. By every measure, 2008′s New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) should have been a total disaster.

There’s the unwieldy title, the status as a ‘concept album’, the big messy themes of urban violence, poverty and race relations. One couldn’t help but anticipate an incoherent throwback to a bygone era where hip hop actually took these issues on with honesty and passion.

The cover art certainly evokes that period, with its retro aesthetic. And it cleverly makes the most of Badu’s trademark afro to illustrate just how much the soul diva has on her mind. The Egyptian ankh, which represents life itself, sits at the centre. Around it we see a plethora of instantly recognisable symbols: pumped fists, satellite dishes, televisions, dollar signs and factories share space with malnourished babies, bees, flowers and peace signs.

The knuckle-dusters at the forefront spell out more than the album’s name – they represent her intentions. “To my folks on the picket line, don’t stop till you change they mind” is just an indicative sample of the fighting words found throughout.

It’s a really cool cover that manages to take on big issues in a striking and cohesive fashion. Much like the music itself, which defied perceptions to become a major critical and modest commercial success. New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) represents a career high for the talented musician and image maker.

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At the same time the album hit stores, the video for debut single Honey was released. It sees her fittingly paying tribute to some of the greatest covers ever made. Check the full video out here

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