Hip-hop and R&B are littered with nostalgic songs (many of which are specifically titled “Back In The Day”.) Why does Badu’s jam stick out more than the others? It’s just a vibe, man. Not to say the other “Back In The Day”s don’t have a certain hazy warmth to them. Erykah manages to evoke that warmth without mentioning specific signposts (unlike the similarly named songs in the four-star section below*.) That might be because not only is “Back In The Day” a nostalgia-evoking song, it’s also a weed song, as you might infer from the parenthetical subtitle. And it’s got Lenny Kravitz on very understated guitar.
I just love the laid-backness, man. Not sure how I overlooked this song on Worldwide Underground upon original release (I might have just been overwhelmed with music in fall 2003.) It didn’t click with me until I saw Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in 2004 (a great concert film that I saw in the theater with a bunch of singing, dancing folks caught up in the positive vibe of the movie and also a movie that I got an invite to attend but foolishly decided against because it was pouring out and I didn’t want to go all the way from The Bronx to Brooklyn.)
*I’m not inferring that mentioning specific signposts is a bad thing. I mean, they’re still four-star songs.