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. It has confessional lyrics by Badu, which cover themes of insecurity, social issues and personal relationships. 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. 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.
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.
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.Rolling Stone magazine's Touré said Badu abandoned the pretensions of Baduizm in favor of equally profound but more comprehensible lyrics. 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."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".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".
Although most reviews were favorable, Mama's Gun was not as successful with consumers and critics as Baduizm had been;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." 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."
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. Christgau, the poll's supervisor, ranked it ninth best on his own year-end list.The Times named it the ninth best record of the year. It was also ranked ninth by Rolling Stone, while Jon Pareles named it the year's fifth best album in his list for The New York Times. The newspaper's Ben Ratliff later said Mama's Gun and D'Angelo's Voodoo were "the great neo-soul records of 2000".