Mama's Gun

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For the British band, see Mamas Gun.
Mama's Gun
Erykah Badu - Mama's Gun.jpg
Studio album by Erykah Badu
Released November 21, 2000
Recorded 1999–2000
Studio Electric Lady Studios in New York City
Genre Neo soul
Length 71:50
Label Motown/Puppy Love
Producer Erykah Badu (exec.), Kedar Massenburg (exec.), James Poyser (co-exec.), Questlove, J Dilla, Snook Young, Shawn Martin, Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, Karma Productions
Erykah Badu chronology
Mama's Gun
Worldwide Underground
Singles from Mama's Gun
  1. "Bag Lady"
    Released: September 12, 2000
  2. "Didn't Cha Know?"
    Released: March 2001
  3. "Cleva"
    Released: 2001

Mama's Gun is the second studio album by American recording artist Erykah Badu, released November 21, 2000, on Motown Records. Recording sessions for the album took place from 1999 to 2000 at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. A neo soul album, Mama's Gun incorporates funk, soul, and jazz styles.[1] It has confessional lyrics by Badu, which cover themes of insecurity, social issues and personal relationships.[2] The album has been viewed by critics as a female companion to neo soul artist D'Angelo's second album Voodoo (2000), which features a similar musical style and direction.[3][4][5] Critics have also noted that while Baduizm contained its share of cryptic lyricism, Mama's Gun is much more direct in its approach, and places the artist in a subjective position more than its predecessor.[6]

The album contains the single "Bag Lady", a top 10 Billboard hit, nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and for Best R&B Song. The song "Didn't Cha Know?" was also nominated for Best R&B Song. The album features substantial contributions from several members of the Soulquarians outfit, of which Badu was a member. It also features guests such as soul singer Betty Wright and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Mama's Gun was met with great critical success and sold strongly, reaching Platinum two months after its release. Thematically the album explores topics regarding self-esteem, relationship breakdowns, and police brutality, and features a more eclectic sound than its predecessor. Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the Top 10 Albums of 2000.


Following Badu signing to Universal Records, she realised her debut studio album Baduizm, in early 1997. The album was met with critical and commercial success, debuting at number two on the Billboard charts and number one on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[7][8] Baduizm‍ '​s commercial and critical success helped establish Badu as one of the emerging neo soul genre's leading artists.[9] Her particular style of singing drew many comparisons to Billie Holiday.[10] Baduizm was certified three times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, Gold by the British Phonographic Industry and the Canadian Recording Industry Association. [11] [12] [13] Badu recorded her first live album, while pregnant with Seven, and the release of the recording coincided with his birth.[14]


The album was recorded at the Electric Lady Studios.

After the success of Baduizm and, Live, Badu took a short break to tend to her role as a mother to her newborn child, Seven, whom she had with her partner at the time, André Benjamin. She returned to collaborating with Questlove of The Roots. The frequency of their collaborations led to her becoming a member of the Soulquarians - a collective formed of like-minded musicians, singers and rappers including Questlove, D'Angelo, Jay Dee, and Common (with whom she had previously worked in 1997). Unfortunately, by the time the songs for her follow up album had begun to materialize, her spousal relationship with Benjamin had already broken down. Badu used the experience as inspiration for several of the songs that she would write, most notably "Green Eyes". Another event, the murder of Amadou Diallo by New York City Police, serves as the basis for the song "A.D. 2000".

As with other Soulquarian collaborations, the majority of the album was recorded at Electric Lady, Jimi Hendrix's personal recording studio, which was also used to create several landmark albums by David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, and John Lennon. The sessions were informal, and took place simultaneously with D'Angelo's Voodoo and Common's Like Water for Chocolate, resulting in impromptu collaborations and a distinctive sound that can be found among the three albums. Renowned recording engineer, Russell Elevado, who was responsible for the mixing of all three albums, has stated that he used older techniques and vintage mixing gear in order to achieve the warmth found in older recordings. While most current recording techniques involve the use of hi-tech digital equipment, Elevado employed the use of analog equipment including vintage microphones and recording to tape.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[15]
The Austin Chronicle 3.5/5 stars[16]
Boston Herald 3.5/4 stars[17]
Entertainment Weekly B−[3]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[18]
Q 3/5 stars[19]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[2]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[20]
Uncut 3/5 stars[21]
The Village Voice A[22]

Mama's Gun was released by Motown Records on November 21, 2000, and received generally positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 80, based on 16 reviews.[19] Rolling Stone magazine's Touré said Badu abandoned the pretensions of Baduizm in favor of equally profound but more comprehensible lyrics.[2] In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote that she improved her ability as a composer on Mama's Gun and also took note of her lyrics: "Maybe her sources are autobiographical, but she’s here to inspire all black-identified women and the men who admire them."[22] The A.V. Club‍ '​s Keith Phipps praised her lyrical themes and the album's "deceptively simple arrangements, a lovely breakup suite ('Green Eyes'), and near-infinite replay value".[23] PopMatters critic Wayne Franklin found the record compelling in its personal scope of Badu's psyche, calling it "a definite work of art, destined to remain in heavy rotation for some time to come".[24]

Although most reviews were favorable, Mama's Gun was not as successful with consumers and critics as Baduizm had been;[25] Q wrote that Badu's debut had raised expectations she did not meet on Mama's Gun, while Entertainment Weekly said it was plagued by "a reactionary pseudo-sophistication that too often substitutes good taste for good tunes."[19] According to Badu in an interview a few months after the album's release, "it has sold 1.4 million in the US. So no, it didn't sell as much ... although creatively I feel like this is a better piece of work." She felt disappointed at first about its commercial performance, but was encouraged by the response from listeners at her concerts: "When I started to tour again and saw all the people show up who knew the words, it was confirmation that the work is not always for commercial success. It's also for spiritual upliftment."[25]

At the end of 2000, Mama's Gun was voted the 15th best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice.[26] Christgau, the poll's supervisor, ranked it ninth best on his own year-end list.[27] The Times named it the ninth best record of the year.[28] It was also ranked ninth by Rolling Stone,[29] while Jon Pareles named it the year's fifth best album in his list for The New York Times.[30] The newspaper's Ben Ratliff later said Mama's Gun and D'Angelo's Voodoo were "the great neo-soul records of 2000".[31]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Penitentiary Philosophy"   Erykah Badu, James Poyser,
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
2. "Didn't Cha Know?"   Badu, James Yancey   3:58
3. "My Life"   Badu, Poyser   3:59
4. "...& On"   Badu, Jahmal Cantero, Shaun Martin   3:34
5. "Cleva"   Badu, Poyser, Yancey   3:45
6. "Hey Sugah"   Badu, N'dambi   0:54
7. "Booty"   Badu   4:04
8. "Kiss Me on My Neck (Hesi)"   Badu, Jack DeJohnette, Poyser, Yancey   5:34
9. "A.D. 2000"   Badu, B.J. Wright   4:51
10. "Orange Moon"   Badu, Brah Lon Lacy, Martin,
Eugene "Snooky" Young
11. "In Love with You" (featuring Stephen Marley) Badu, Marley   5:21
12. "Bag Lady"   Badu, Brian Bailey, Ricardo Brown,
Nathan Hale, Isaac Hayes, Craig Longmiles, S. Martin, Andre Young
13. "Time's a Wastin'"   Badu, Young, Martin   6:42
14. "Green Eyes"   Badu, Vikter Duplaix, Poyser   10:04



Chart (2000) Peak
Netherlands Albums Chart 7
Switzerland Albums Chart 33
Swedish Albums Chart[32] 19
Austria Albums Chart 56
UK Albums Chart[33] 76
UK R&B Albums Chart[34] 11
U.S. Billboard 200[35] 11
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[36] 3


  1. ^ DaCosta, Jamaias (March 16, 2012). "On the record: Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun". CBC Music. CBC. Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Touré. Review: Mama's Gun. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  3. ^ a b Brunner, Rob. Review: Mama's Gun. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  4. ^ Klein, Joshua. "Review: Mama's Gun". The Washington Post: C.05. December 6, 2000. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  5. ^ Gill, Andy. Review: Mama's Gun. The Independent. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  6. ^ allmusic ((( Mama's Gun > Overview )))
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums: December 09, 2000 | Billboard Chart Archive". December 9, 2000. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ O'Donnell, David. Review: Baduizm. BBC Music. Retrieved on 2009-08-03.
  10. ^ "Erykah Badu". Rock On The Net. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ RIAA
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "Gold and Platinum". December 1, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2012. 
  14. ^ [2][dead link]
  15. ^ Theakston, Rob. Review: Mama's Gun. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  16. ^ Hernandez, Raoul (December 29, 2000). "Review: Erykah Badu". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved September 26, 2015. 
  17. ^ Rodman, Sarah. "Review: Mama's Gun". Boston Herald: 061. December 17, 2000. Archived from the original on 2009-10-30. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  18. ^ Hilburn, Robert (November 19, 2000). "Singular Visions Seeking Focus". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 25, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c "Critics Reviews for Mama's Gun". Metacritic. Retrieved September 26, 2015. 
  20. ^ Cinquemani, Sal. Review: Mama's Gun. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  21. ^ Uncut (London): 79. February 2001. 
  22. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (January 16, 2001). "Dub for Dummies". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved September 25, 2015. 
  23. ^ Phipps, Keith. Review: Mama's Gun. The A.V. Club. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  24. ^ Franklin, Wayne. Review: Mama's Gun. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  25. ^ a b McIver, Joel (2010). Erykah Badu: The First Lady Of Neo-Soul. SMT Publishing. p. 208. ISBN 0857124498. 
  26. ^ "Pazz & Jop 2000: Critics Poll". The Village Voice (New York). February 2001. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  27. ^ Christgau, Robert (February 2001). "Pazz & Jop 2000: Dean's List". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Mama's Gun". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Top 10 Albums of 2000". Rolling Stone (New York): 106. January 4, 2001. 
  30. ^ Pareles, Jon. The Critics' Choices: Danceable Grooves, Hip-Hop Worldviews. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  31. ^ Ratliff, Ben (January 20, 2013). "Pursuing Many Paths to Find His Own". The New York Times. p. AR22. Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  32. ^ "". Retrieved 7 July 2009.  Top Swedish Albums (2000)
  33. ^ OfficialCharts.comErykah Badu|Official Chart History.
  34. ^ "". Retrieved 5 August 2015.  UK R&B Albums Chart (2000)
  35. ^ "Album Info: Mama's Gun - Erykah Badu". Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  36. ^ "R&B/Hip Hop Albums: Week of December 09, 2000". Retrieved June 20, 2012. 

External links[edit]