Perhaps the only major rap-and-r&b act weirder than the Rootsthe long-running and curmudgeonly collective from Philadelphiais Erykah Badu, whose new album, entitled New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), bears little resemblance to even a single piece of music released in the last decade. Her early days as neo-souls Billie Holiday seem laughably far away; today, her idiomone part esoteric philosophy, two parts sample science, all held together by Badus helium-squeaky declamationshas more to do with 70s-era paranoid funk than with modern raps blithe material contentment. The Roots, who tote their own brand-new Rising Down to Radio City tonight, know a thing or two about discontentment as well: Rising Down opens with a tape of a 1994 phone call between band and management, in which the group wakes up to the painful fact that it no longer controls its own artistic destiny. Theyve been fighting for creative control ever since.
Fri., May 9, 8 p.m., 2008