THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES: Tyrone by Erykah Badu (1997)

“I’m getting tired of your shit.  You don’t ever buy me nothing.  See every time you come around, you gotta bring James, Paul and Tyrone.  Why can’t we be by ourselves sometime?”  It’s a pretty straightforward concept about a universal problem, yet one there aren’t too many songs about.  Sung in Erykah’s incredible, unique voice, silky and burning, the punch line is a gut kick: “I think you better call Tyrone, and tell him come on help you get your shit.  Yeah you better call Tyrone, but you can’t use my phone.”

Released on her “Live” album, the song wasn’t a single (too long!) and wasn’t pure R&B (too jazzy!), but it caught on quickly and has retained its place as her signature song—spawning a 2015 mixtape that featured variations on the song’s musical and lyrical themes.

Further listening: Badu sports multiple platinum albums, and the singles off them are all great: On and On, Otherside of the Game, Bag Lady, Didn’t Cha Know, Cleva, Ode to Hip Hop… But her 2015 mixtape, “But You Caint Use My Phone,” with extended jams and improvisation, is in my view her greatest accomplishment so far.


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