Nu aM-ERykah: "Telephone"

"Telephone... It's Ol' Dirty... he wants to give you directions home."
-e.badu "Telephone." New Ameryka. Universal Music, 2006 A.D. Feb 14

All I could think of when I FINALLY started listenin' to
New Ameryka was Katt Williams. You know that episode where he's caricaturing enthusiastic street pharmacists and their latest product. You would've thought I was on bankroll at Universal the way I've been rollin' up on everybody I know like: "This sh** right here Ninja!"

Because its FIRE like that.
A must have for every politically minded individual I respect.

In every song, erykah delivers a shrewd political commentary, yet remains optimistic. She is empathetic with those she sees as "children of the matrix," even as she is able to identify the err in their ways; "hittin them car switches."
-e.badu "Twinkle." New Ameryka. Universal Music, 2006 A.D.

I have to admit that on my first listen, I didn't know what I'd stumbled upon. I was so busy looking for an old erykah, that I looked right past her standing there in front of me. I did a similar thing with Worldwide Underground, but I came to my senses THEN too, after paying closer attention.

Maybe that's what I love about her so much. That she never gives you anything old, that she always challenges herself and her listeners, to dig deeper. I have love in my heart for this woman; a thin but hearty slice of brilliance born on Saviour's Day.

In my book, she's got an Aquarian spirit (no matter that she is a legitimate Pisces). I'm an Aquari-isces, myself.

Apart from already knowing how much I loved "Honey," and misunderstanding the meaning behind "The Healer," I fell in love instantly with "Telephone." I think myself so bold as to assume that its probably had a similar effect on others. And I had to make room in my heart next to "Green Eyes" because that is my all time favorite. ;)

But to make it more explicit, it's been a long time since I searched a CD jacket furiously for lyrics and liner notes, but please believe I've been listening over and over trying to really understand why this song made my heart feel so heavy; trying to decode poetry of it.

In the jacket, the lyrics are unfinished... And there is a note:

this song was written for James Yancey (Dilla)
by myself, James Poyser & Ahmir ? Thompson
in memory of our brother...

written feb 15. the day after ceremony.

lyrics inspired by a story told to me by
"Ma Dukes" Yancey on the day Dilla transitioned.

I didn't know the story behind this song. But I remembered hearing that the same
(James Yancey) better known as "J. Dilla" (February 7, 1974–February 10, 2006) had passed on a little over a year ago. He peaked my attention not only because he was well respected in the Hip-Hop community, but also because I learned that he had been afflicted with Lupus. It is a disease that touches no only someone in my family, but also has taken the lives of a few people connected to me.

I was sad to discover I'd grown up marginally aware of the magnitude of the Dilla influence around me. But, I was instinctively swept up in the undeniable reverence of the man in his passing. The song is so emotional, powerful, devastating and sanguine all at once. Today while listening to the song, I finally got a coherent imagery that I felt could be applied to the lyrics:

The track starts with a siren.
-- I see them as being indicative of the chaos, and taking someone to the hospital.

Then follow the exaggerated sound of water-drops.
-- I thought of the drops as being either indicative of rain (which for many brings and feelings of somberness, or sadness) or tears of those that miss him.

And flutes and triangles...
-- The sounds themselves are symbolic of a kind of peace, perhaps the peace we always hope and believe our loved ones rest in when they transition out of this world and into the next.

Then her voice, singing
"Telephone, its Ol' Dirty
he wants to give you directions home
Said it won't be do to long."

--I took her reference to mean ODB, who transitioned a year and a half prior to Dilla,
as a way of sayin' that the after-life was calling him.

While erykah is the vessel for the lyrics, I imagined the narrator to those lines could have been a variety of characters; from badu herself, to "Ma Dukes," or someone else close to him at his bedside. The song is saturated with the feeling that Dilla had to be coaxed out into the afterlife, by a call on the "telephone" from Ol' Dirty. I imagined the speaker trying to lighten what would surely be a hard conversation, during someone's last moments or days. Trying to ease the pain of the moment, with a culturally appropriate metaphor for making the transition from this life into the next.

It reminds me of the story my dad tells me about when my grandmother (lela) passed. And how strongly believed that she had held on until he got there, and told her that it was OK to let go. I could see this being another way of representing that kind of conversation. Except this time someone was convincing, Dilla, that it was OK to stop trying to hold on.

"Day is gone/ its 3:30,"
she sings
to hard for some buff(??)-- love
...lasts...for..ev.er." -
-and her voice quivers.
While it sounded to me like she was fighting tears throughout this song, it felt like in that moment, more than others, that she had to fight the most. It seemed like she was, in that moment, trying to convince herself, rather than Dilla , that "love [in fact] lasts forever." And not just that the love folks have for Dilla, but Dilla's love for his folks.

Later she sings
...Its to early,
We want to hear a long
Transition... with a real slow fade"
--Clearly a reference to his age. It was much to early for him to pass, having just reached his thirty second birthday. Most of us would rather a transition, with a real slow fade, growing old, slowly with our peers their to experience it with us.

Her humming at the end...
gives the image of a someone crying or sobbing, but it sounds like someone saying "Shh" in the and telling her not to cry; that it's going to be OK.

In doing my research, I came upon what appears to be the real story. I may have been off, but rings true to me in both ways.

I don't have to tell you much more about this album, or use a lot of adjectives to encapsulate it for you to understand the magnitude to which it has effected me. And this track is the least political among them.

But I will say...This body of work makes me lose sleep.

-urB'n sKoLa

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