Your phone wakes you. Your eyes are greeted by the darkness in your room, accentuated by the flashing light that accompanies the blaring tone. You stumble out of bed and grab the device. You press answer and hold it up to your ear. You are driving between towering buildings in the heat of the sun. Your phone rings again, and you reluctantly lift it to your cheek. You’re surrounded by a large crowd jumping to a beat. You feel your pocket vibrate . . .
Mixtapes are everything in hip-hop. If they can’t rent a producer for an LP’s worth of instrumentals, or (gasp!) produce it themselves, vocalists gather tracks created by their favorite producers and add their own flavor on top. This specific artist hardly needs to restrain herself to this format, but she honors her roots by owning it completely. But You Caint Use My Phone is the newest full-length mixtape by singer-songwriter Erykah Badu.
This is a mixtape in the truest sense of the term, as it consists primarily of Badu contorting telephone-focused songs by other artists — including the Isley Brothers, Egyptian Lover, New Edition, Usher, and Drake (yes, it’s “Hotline Bling”) — by adding her iconic vocals and sound design nuances with producer Zach Witness. Along with comedic skits included, this record has an off-the-cuff feel that’s loads of fun.
For Badu, phones aren’t to be taken for granted; they’re supernatural devices that stretch across space and time, and span the gap between this life and the next. They have the potential to distort intentions and ruin connections, but they also possess the power of seemingly infinite communication. This record is evidence that she isn’t alone in her thinking. If you’re seeking mixtape-format, soulful r&b, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)