Motown - 2003 - 59 minutes

Nowadays, with the CD soul section flooded with kooky, ethnic clad, mystical earth mothas, you'd be forgiven for mixing up your India Aries with your Jill Scotts. However, Erykah Badu remains a cut above.

Credited with single-handedly inventing nu-soul with her 1997 platinum debut album, 'Baduizm', Erykah Badu's fourth offering is no less challenging than previous albums. With 'World Wide Underground' the born-again African queen plums the depths of black American music and emerges triumphant with a genre bending blend of hip hip, R'n'B, scat, rap, soul and jazz that's all her own.

The EP (so considered for it's apparent brevity) was recorded whilst on tour and features contributions from some of the best musicians the US has to offer including Stic Man, Dead Prez, Queen Latifah, Angie Stone, Bahamadiah and Lenny Kravitz.

The results range from the light flow of 'Back in the Day' to 'Bump It' with its mix of sprinkled in hip-hop beats and sweet harmonies to the edgier turn of Roots-style rap 'The Grind' (featuring Stic Man).

We're also treated to a remix of the Grammy-winning 'Love of My Life Worldwide', built on the foundation of Sequence's 1979 hit 'Funk You Up', which features cameos by Queen Latifah, Bahamadia, and Angie Stone (the original Angie B of Sequence).

This soul diva has always filled her music with a strong mystical and spiritual element and this latest effort is no exception, with lyrics like "turn the sauna up to hotter, drank a whole jar of holy water..." However, Badu has turned her previous obfuscation into poetry of a sweeter simplicity. This kind of intelligent, inventive music always comes recommended.

Elizabeth O'Neill

Tracklisting: Intro - World Keeps Turnin' - Bump it - Back In the Day - I Want You - Woo - The Grind - Danger - Think Twice - Love of My Life Worldwide - Outro' - World Keeps Turnin' - Bonus tracks: Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop) - Hollywood