Twice The Badu

In her decade-plus career, Erykah Badu hasn't been afraid to wait long periods between projects. But now Badu is making up for lost time.

In her decade-plus career, Erykah Badu hasn't been afraid to wait long periods between projects. But now Badu is making up for lost time.

Five years on from her last release, the "Worldwide Underground" EP, she is putting the finishing touches on "Nu AmErykah," a double-album to be released in separate installments.

The first disc, dubbed "4th World War," arrives Feb. 26 via Universal Motown, while the second, currently untitled installment is tentatively slated for the summer.

The Dallas native has posted impressive sales. Her 1997 debut, "Baduizm," has sold 2.6 million units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. A live album released that year shifted another 1.8 million, while 2000's funky "Mama's Gun" is at 1.3 million. 2003's "Worldwide Underground" topped out at 609,000 copies.

Since then, she's made the occasional in-studio appearance (2002's "Brown Sugar" soundtrack, Zap Mama's "Bandi Bandi"), but has spent most of her time on the road.

"Artists don't make any money from recording," Badu says. "The only thing I make money from is touring. I stay on the road. I'm taking R&B where it's going."

Where Badu is going now is "Nu AmErykah," which she says "is the next place I am in my mind. It's what I hear and create when I get in front of a board." The happy first single, "Honey," which soars 52-34 this week on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, was produced by 9th Wonder.

On "The Healer," Badu talks about how "hip-hop is bigger than religion" in an elevated whisper. "Love" begins the second disc, which is full of romantic, uptempo jams. Kareem Riggins, the late J Dilla, Sa-Ra's Shafiq Husayn, Madlib and newcomer Taroc also contribute to the collection.

"Honey" is playing before films at national indie theaters across the country, while the psychedelic "Nu AmErykah" cover art is gracing coffee cup sleeves at an array of outlets.

"There's a core fan base of African-American males and females," Universal executive VP of urban marketing and artist development Shanti Das says. "But Erykah's grown so much that we want to make sure that we're marketing to new audiences like trendy hipsters as well."

To that end, the label hired marketing firm Giant Step to reach Badu's 25-plus urban fan base, as well as gay lifestyle marketing company Blue Streak. Universal is also employing the burgeoning USB stick technology for "Nu AmErykah," with Das claiming Badu is the first urban artist to utilize it. Fans who purchase the album in this format can access exclusive videos and Web content (including a Badu-created photo flipbook) that will be updated monthly.

Online, the "Honey" video premiered Jan. 28 on Yahoo Music, which is airing an all-Badu promotion the week of release. Numerous webisodes will also be available from Badu's Web site (erykahbadu.com).

The artist won't be back on the road in the United States until May, but she will perform on street date at Dallas' House of Blues, with special guests such as Q-Tip and the Roots' ?uestlove.

And in fourth-quarter 2008, Universal hopes to extend Badu's reach with coffee drinkers by releasing a live album, "Loretta Brown," exclusively via Starbucks. Details have yet to be confirmed.