The Amerykhan Promise vs. 42 Laws of Maat

Amerykahn Promise is, quite possibly, the track I underrated most on "Nu Amerykah." That's probably due in part because I wanted to groove when I first got the album, I wasn't really listening. It is also due in part because Track One kinda freaked me out even though I really didn't understand it at first. Nearly 9 months later, and with yet more perspective behind me, I have a better grasp.

But I am still vaguely surprised that I haven't heard much more about hearty amount of critique Ms. Badu levies of contemporary notions black, racial and political identities with this album, with this track even. It initially reads as a commercial, and then sashays into a freestyle riff over funkadelic background, "Promise Promise, Amerykahn Promise." The song lays out all of the things that we uphold as part of the Amerykahn Promise. She speaks authoritatively to a presumably largely black listenership about our over-consumerism, our addictions, our intra-racial color consciousness, to name a few things. But yet and still, she cultivates a kind of maternal sensibility with the audience, via her always compassionate reflections- "And I salute you Farrakhan, 'cuz you are me"(Just Me, Track 3). It's one of the things that makes her a great artist to me - that she give the air of a decent human being.

"Hold On-- MY PEO-PLE!"

The relationship I have with music is like that of me and past loves. There is a kind of intimacy I feel listening to it - the getting to know you. And I admittedly will play a song or album to death because I thrive off of the energy that enjoying the music brings - sorta like the honeymoon phase. But at some point you burn out, and you just need to take some time to flush your system of the overload - the break up.

I take space from Erykah's music like I do breakups - each time knowing there will forever be that lingering familiarity. It reminds me that I miss her presence, her depth and eventually I come back around to remembering why I appreciated even her quirks in the first place.
I've started playing "Green Eyes" more lately, sort of as an act of mourning [from an actual break-up] and at the same time an act of discipline and humility. That song invokes a level of emotional vulnerability and honesty I'm sure many of us find difficult to muster. But after being humbled by all of the things that it reveals to me about myself, I felt like I needed to tap into a different spirit of Erykah.

Green Eyes - Erykah Badu

And so, I reached for "Nu Amerykah" once again.
It is my album for 2008, partly because it raises so many questions pertinent to this era and about just showing basic decency to one another. If folks listened a little more closely that I think would obviate the stupidity of some of our greatest struggles, even today, between one another (be it race, gender, sex, sexuality). With the election at our backs, a Black President in place, gay rights on the fritz - and the race debates emerging as a result, I was in need of perspective. I've been needing to write.

Early into my the listening session this afternoon. I took it upon myself to look up the quote from the end of "Amerykhan Promise" when the little girl, who I learned is called when Ma'at, asks "Has anyone seen my 42 laws?" I came upon the following.

The 42 Laws of Maat
  • 1. I honor virtue
  • 2. I benefit without conflict
  • 3. I am non-violent
  • 4. I respect the property of others
  • 5. I affirm that all life is sacred
  • 6. I give offerings that are genuine and generous
  • 7. I live in truth
  • 8. I regard all altars as sacred
  • 9. I speak the truth
  • 10. I consume only my fair share
  • 11. I speak words of good intent
  • 12. I relate with understanding
  • 13. I honor animals as sacred
  • 14. I can be trusted
  • 15. I care for the earth
  • 16. I keep my own council
  • 17. I speak positively of others
  • 18. I remain in balance with my emotions
  • 19. I am trustful in my relationships
  • 20. I hold purity in high esteem
  • 21. I spread joy
  • 22. I do the best I can
  • 23. I communicate with compassion
  • 24. I listen to opposing opinions
  • 25. I create harmony
  • 26. I invoke laughter
  • 27. I am open to love in various forms
  • 28. I am forgiving
  • 29. I am kind
  • 30. I act respectfully of others
  • 31. I am non-judgmental
  • 32. I follow my inner guidance
  • 33. I speak without disturbing others
  • 34. I do good
  • 35. I give blessings
  • 36. I keep the waters pure
  • 37. I speak with optimism
  • 38. I praise divinity
  • 39. I am humble
  • 40. I achieve with integrity
  • 41. I advance through my own abilities
  • 42. I embrace the all
* These laws were rewritten and updated from the ancient texts by 9 Priestesses of the Temple of Isis (California) travelling in Egypt from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22, 1995

If this isn't a dignified code to live by, I don't know what is. I could go off on a riff about how under the laws of Maat, a gay marriage ban probably would not have existed. But I have other thoughts to spit on the aftermath of the election. And while my first thought was "Why do we carry on traditions of bigotry and hatred, but forget or deny benign and peace driven principles like those above?" I followed it with another of Erykah's lyrics:

"They be tryna hide the history/ but they know who we are." (Soldier, Track)

How many of ya'll know about the 42 Laws of Ma'at?
Check out T'arr.a's Take
Loc Loc: Who's there?: Mmm, oOh


  1. I love the 1st track, because it has my favorite part when she starts counting off what she would give: "Promise I'll love you till the day I die
    ....I'll give you my nose...." and then she gets frustrated and is like "Damn near anything you want". That gets me everytime I hear it. I listened to it so much I totally got overloaded, somebody borrowed it from me and Im dying to get it back...LOL. The cell is amazing cuz she ends the track by singing without a beat for almost a minute which is a hard ass think to do, like Whitney's I Will Always Love You....

    But I really cannot wait till Return of the Ankh and Lowdown Loretta Brown come out....She's toying with my emotions........


  2. Nu Amerykah is most definitely my album of the year. Her album is like going through a life changing book, you know? There are passages/songs that you re-read/listen to over and over again because the words and messages are that beautiful and transformative.
    I've started reading "Invisible Man" last week and I'm slowly getting into it. One thing that the character talks about is music. And how we hear music because music is naturally heard...but its rare that one sees it except for musicians. They see the music and lyrics rather than just only hearing. you get what i'm saying..? Anyway that's been on my mind.. and with Erykah's album, I see her music and lyrics and messages-just as you've mentioned with your posts on the album (I read your other one on 'Telephone'. :)

    I love your entries patna! keep 'em up

  3. I wrote a lengthy response but it got erased beacuse i didn't sign in first :/ haha but i gave you some dapz!

    I don't have the energy to re-write everything, but I just have to agree that Nu Amerykah is mos def my ablum of the year. Not only do you hear her music..but you can see it, you know? She painting beautiful, complex pictures that scream "action!" you know..and organizing! I love it!

    Keep up your entries patna! I love reading 'em :)

  4. I love that song! Sometimes a lot of her songs you have to listen to repeatedly to get the full message and or understand her fully. Badu is a wonderful and very underrated artist. I love that woman! She's one of my favorites!

  5. so this is my owed comment ... though not different from others ... there are too many tracks that are my fave on that cd ... including this one ... http://ytkholi.blogspot.com/2008/03/things-hampton-taught-me-close-reading.html ... lol.

    but really ... though i knew i fell in love with the cd when i heard "has anyone seen my 42 laws" ... and then later ... "that's not science" ... actually seeing all the laws again has given me food for thought ... or change ... ok both.

  6. i did the same this you did...google 42 laws, and i found you! i'm liking your writings. but erykah badu is amazing the way she weaves so much activist language and spirituality into her beats. i have been a huge fan of hers from the beginning. thanks for giving her space in your blog.

  7. HAHA! I googled it too. Erykah is so Dynamic. "I stay woke". I went to the concert in Oakland and was so upset that the chics in front of were loud and acting a fool. I could not here when she was minsitering to the crowd. Anywho I am on my way to see her in SF.

  8. I'm saying! GOOGLE mayne! LOL

    But sorry about the concert in the town. That sux. Prolly the same chicz that be makin me wanna act the ass and tell them about themselves on the 40 bus!

    But good thing u get to see her again. My friend mentioned it to me. In June rah? I dunno if I'ma make it but def enjoy!

  9. these are the 42 laws of maat and you say them in the morning and before you go to sleep and i think that if everyone truly lived by these the world would change for the better
    1. I will not do wrong.
    2. I will not steal.
    3. I will not act with violence.
    4. I will not kill.
    5. I will not act unjustly.
    6. I will not cause pain.
    7. I will not wast food.
    8. I will not lie.
    9. I will not desecrate holy places.
    10. I wil not speak evil.
    11. I will not abuse my sexuality.
    12. I will not cause the shedding of tears.
    13. I will not sow seeds of regret.
    14. I will not be an aggressor.
    15. I will not act guilefully.
    16. I will not lay wast the plowed land.
    17. I will not bear false witness.
    18. I will not set my mouth in motion against any person.
    19. I will not be wrathful and angry except for a just cause.
    20. I will not copulate with a man's wife.
    21. I will not copulate with a woman's husband.
    22. I will not pollute myself.
    23. I will not cause terror.
    24. I will not pollute the earth.
    25. I will not speak in anger.
    26. I will not turn from words of right and truth.
    27. I will not utter curses.
    28. I will not initiate a quarrel.
    29. I will not be excitable or contentious.
    30. I will not prejudge.
    31. I will not be an eavesdropper.
    32. I will not speak overmuch.
    33. I will not commit treason against my Ancestors.
    34. I will not waste water.
    35 I will not do evil.
    36. I will not be arrogant.
    37. I will not blaspheme NTR, the One Most High.
    38. I will not commit fraud.
    39. I will not mistreat children.
    40. I will not mistreat animals.
    41. I will not defraud temple offerings.
    42. I will not plunder the dead.


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