"Mama's Gun," the latest from self-proclaimed "rasta-style flower child" Erykah Badu, is hypnotic, with a vibe that's distinct from most contemporary rhythm and blues. The question is, how many of us can bear the preachy, self-righteous words? After the stir caused by her debut project, "Baduizm," R&B radio can't totally dismiss "Mama's Gun," but they'll be a good deal less moongazing about this sophomore effort, and the track that gets the most play will be "In Love With You," Badu's duet with the heir to the Marley throne, Stephen Marley: the song is almost devoid of spiritual overtones.

This is a shame, because Badu's spirituality, though it can be overbearing, is charmingly eclectic. Her lyrics are spiritual riddles that borrow from Rastafarianism, astrology, traditional African religions, and her Baptist roots, and she uses them not frivolously , but to address the ills of the human condition. "Evil don't test me, Evil you won't win," she sings on the album's opening track, "Penitentiary Philosophy," a guitar-driven track that warns of evil's power to imprison.

Elsewhere, Badu slips into the lingo of love, but listen closely: she's describing her sacred relationship to the universe. On "Kiss Me On My Neck," she sings, "I am a warrior princess from the other sun. I have traveled long and far. I have come from the strongest king in the world." She gives little indication who that king might be, but it sure ain't Elvis.

With a voice that seems to resurrect Billie Holiday, this Dallas, Texas native already breathed spirituality into the stagnant radio airwaves and has given rebirth to soul music with her debut. "Mama's Gun" may not always be pleasant, but it tests the limits again.

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