Take a ride of life with me
Free your mind and find your way
There will be a brighter day
After the success of her debut record Baduizm, Badu took some time off for introspection and to raise her son. After which she returned to recording her second studio album with help from Questlove of The Roots. Due to their collaborations, Erykah would also become affiliated with the Soulquarians, a experimental black music collective that would be present during the recording of the record as well as other noted neo soul / hip hop releases of the late 90s & early 2000s (i.e Black on Both Sides, Like Water for Chocolate, 1st Born Second).
Noted for its confessional nature and groove-oriented live instrumentation, Mama's Gun would experiment with jazz, funk, soul, reggae and psychedelia, with it being favourably compared to fellow neo soul artist and Soulquarian member, D'Angelo's Voodoo. With both records coming out in the same year, experimenting with black musical styles and being recorded in Electric Lady Studios (Jimi Hendrix's recording studio).
Although commercially successful and warm critical reception, initially it would not meet the commercial expectations or critical acclaim of her debut album, however, overtime it would gain further acclaim and be considered an unique record in its own right and one of the finest neo soul records of its time. And in 2020, it would be included in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at number 158.
- "Penitentiary Philosophy" (6:09)
- "Didn't Cha Know?" (3:58)
- "My Life" (3:59)
- "...& On" (3:34)
- "Cleva" (3:45)
- "Hey Sugah" (0:54)
- "Booty" (4:04)
- "Kiss Me on My Neck (Hesi)" (5:34)
- "A.D. 2000" (4:51)
- "Orange Moon" (7:10)
- "In Love with You" (5:21)
- "Bag Lady" (5:48)
- "Time's a Wastin'" (6:42)
- "Green Eyes" (10:04)
Time's a Tropin'
- Alliterative Title: "Penitentary Philosophy"
- Badass Boast: "Booty" subverts this, with the track having Badu tell a woman that she could easily take her man despite her being more conventionally attractive than Badu herself. However, she doesn't want her man as she respects her, seeing their sisterhood as black women.I don't want him, cause of what he's done to you
And you don't need him, cause he ain't ready
See I don't want him
If he ain't made no arrangement with you
And you don't need him, cause the boy ain't ready
- Break Up Song: "Green Eyes" is this. Detailing the stages involved in dealing with a relationship that has ended in three suites, all of which are sonically different from each other.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Didn't Cha Know" has Badu go through shades of this, while reaffirming herself things will be alright in the end.:Time to save the world
Where in the world is all the time?
So many things I still don't know
So many times I've changed my mind
Guess I was born to make mistakes
But I ain't scared to take the weight
So when I stumble off the path
I know my heart will guide me back
- Epic Rocking: There are a decent amount of tracks that go over the five minute mark on this record. Hell, the first track is six minutes, but that track is dwarfed by the final track, which is ten.
- Fading into the Next Song: Employed throughout the record.
- Female Empowerment Song: "Bag Lady" is this with her telling a woman that she musy let go of her emotional baggage (i.e. "pack light") if she wants to move on from her grief.Bag lady, you gone hurt your back
Draggin' all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold onto
Is you, is you, is you
- Longest Song Goes Last: "Green Eyes" is the final track and the longest at ten minutes.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Hey Sugah", which is essentially just Badu and background singer, N'Dambi, scatting for less than a minute.
- Neo Soul: Considered one of the greatest works in the genre.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: "Penitentiary Philosophy" has more in common with a psychedelic jam session than with most of the songs on the record and it's the first track at that.
- Protest Song: "A.D. 2000" is an odd one. As although the song is essentially about the killing of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, the song is moreso an elegy, sung from his perspective.No you won't be name'n no buildings after me
To go down dilapidated
No you won't be name'n no buildings after me
My name will be mistated, surely
- Sampling: "Didn't Cha Know" samples "Dreamflower" by Tarika Blue. Which was unauthorized, leading to an out of court settlement.
- "Penitentiary Philosophy" would interpolate a verse from Stevie Wonder's "Ordinary Pain".
- "My Life" samples the reverse drum loop from "Paul Revere" by the Beastie Boys.
- "....& On" would heavily sample Badu's own track "On & On" from her previous album, Baduizm.
- The Cheeba Sac Remix of "Bag Lady" (released as a single), makes heavy use of a sample of a wah-wah guitar loop from "Xxxplosive" by Dr. Dre, which in turn sampled "Bumpy's Lament" by Soul Mann & The Brothers.
- Scatting: Utilized on multiple tracks, however is most apparent on tracks such as "In Love With You" and "Hey Sugah".
- Self Empowerment Anthem: "Cleva", on which Badu sings that despite her not necessarily being physically attractive, she is still comfortable in her own body and can attract people through her other qualites such as her intelligence:This is how I look without makeup
And with no bra my ninny's sag down low
My hair ain't never hung down to my shoulders
And it might not grow
You never know
But I'm clever when I bust a rhyme
I'm cleva always on ya mind
She's cleva and I really wanna grow
But why come you're the last to know?
- Sequel Song: "....& On" is this to "On & On".
- From "...& On": "I be that gypsy flippin' life game from the right brain". Erykah and Andre 3000 dated for a time, and were also involved creatively, so cross-pollination between their songs wasn't too surprising.
- Silly Love Songs: "In Love With You", "Kiss Me On My Neck", "Orange Moon"
- Singer Namedrop: On "...& On" and "In Love With You". Granted it's quite simple to do this given Badu is already a scar sound.
- Solar and Lunar: "Orange Moon" has Badu compare herself and her lover to the sun and moon.I'm an orange moon
I'm brighter than before
Brighter than ever before
I'm an orange moon and I shine so bright
Cause I reflect the light of my sun
- Soprano and Gravel: "In Love With You" features the soft, lilting voice of Erykah and the raspy, rough vocals of Stephen Marley.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "...& On" pokes fun at the criticism of her doing this on Baduizm:What good do your words do if they can't understand you?
Don't go talkin' that shit Badu, Badu