Mama's Gun, Badu's sophomore studio effort (her Live album appeared just months after Baduizm) finds the hip-hop chanteuse in a similar state of mind three years later. From the pure '70s Roberta Flackness of the cover art to the soul-drenched vibe that permeates the music, it's clear Badu has continued her history studies while retaining her focus on the current direction music is taking. The disc's raucous opener, "Penitentiary Philosophy" is a case in point, with its rousing Sly Stone/Curtis Mayfield soul-funk peaks counterbalanced against a quietly jazzy undercurrent that perfectly complements Badu's lyrical presentation. When she sings, "Don't you test me.../You won't win," she offers no choice but to believe her.
Any number of high points on Mama's Gun confirm Badu's brilliance in genre gene-splicing. "... & On," her self-referential response to Baduizm's huge hit "On & On," is a glorious hip-hop/classic-soul workout that oozes seamlessly into the Miles DavismeetsMarvin Gaye R&B honey of "Cleva," while "A.D. 2000" updates Roberta Flack's pop-jazz architecture in the context of a tribute to slain immigrant Amadou Diallo. Many artists have attempted to be all things to all people, and very few have been able to deliver that difficult payload, but Badu's flawless sense of organically blending past and present musical trends without a hint of cynicism or calculation is the key to her previous and future successes across every conceivable demographic.