Artist: Erykah Badu
Album: But You Caint Use My Phone
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
01 Caint Use My Phone (Suite) (3:34)
02 Hi (0:35)
03 Cel U Lar Device (6:28)
04 Phone Down (3:28)
05 U Use to Call Me (1:13)
06 Mr. Telephone Man (3:11)
07 U Don’t Have to Call (2:00)
08 Medley: What’s Yo Phone Number / Telephone (Ghost of Screw Mix) (5:10)
09 Dial’Afreaq (3:10)
10 I’ll Call U Back (1:57)
11 Hello (5:19)
But You Caint Use My Phone is a mixtape in the true hip-hop sense, as it largely finds Erykah Badu putting her spin on other artists’ songs. Created alongside a young producer and fellow Dallas denizen named Zach Witness in just 12 days, and featuring a guest spot from André 3000, the tape feels off-the-cuff, yet also steeped in history and wisdom.
When Erykah Badu found out that her friend and collaborator J Dilla passed away in February 2006, her mind reeled. The producer was just 32, felled by a rare blood disease that clogged his body with clots and a case of lupus that caused his immune system to go haywire. Badu thought of a story Dilla’s mother told her about her son’s dying days, when she would find him having conversations with an unseen companion. One time, when she asked him who he was talking to, he said it was Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who had died in 2004. As Badu recounted years later, Dilla explained to his mom: “He was telling me what bus to get on when I cross over. He said, ‘Don’t get on the red bus, get on the white bus. The red bus looks fun, but that’s not the one.’” That memory inspired Badu to write a song called “Telephone”, which starts: “Telephone, it’s Ol’ Dirty/ He wants to give you directions home/ Said it won’t be too long.”
“Telephone” originally appeared on Badu’s 2008 album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) and it’s reprised in chopped-and-screwed form as a tribute to another late rap producer, DJ Screw, on the singer’s new mixtape, But You Caint Use My Phone. For the 44-year-old ankh-worshipping R&B iconoclast, phones aren’t just emoji factories or Candy Crush receptacles—they’re mystic devices that can span time and space, heaven and Earth. According to Badu, phones can enhance our ability to communicate deep desires across oceans, but they can also jumble our meaning with static or frustrate with busy signals and voicemail. As an extension of ourselves, phones can be heartbreaking, lustful, smart, dumb, noisy, distracting, powerful.
But You Caint Use My Phone is a mixtape in the true hip-hop sense, as it largely finds Badu putting her spin on other artists’ songs. Created alongside a young producer and fellow Dallas denizen named Zach Witness in just 12 days, the tape feels off-the-cuff, yet also steeped in history and wisdom. This paradoxical quality can be found in much of Badu’s work over the last two decades as well as on her initial inspiration for this tape, Drake’s “Hotline Bling”, the SoundCloud loosie-turned-smash about late-night buzzes with a beat taken from Timmy Thomas’ 1972 anti-war plea “Why Can’t We Live Together”. “Hotline Bling” is old and new, R&B and hip-hop, serious and fun—it’s a song that might not exist without the pioneering work of Erykah Badu, so it only makes sense for her to reclaim it.
by Ryan Dombal