On D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ and His MIA Years

Courtesy of Greg Harris via Vice
Courtesy of Greg Harris via Vice

March 06th, 2010, a news story flashes over the television screen saying that singer/musician D’Angelo has been arrested and charged with soliciting a female officer for oral sex down in the West Village of Manhattan, New York City. Aside from being shocking that this turned out to be the Grammy Award-winning neo-soul singer, D’Angelo, the other thing that comes to mind is, this is the same man that made one of the sexiest songs/videos ever, “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” Who’s not trying to get with D’Angelo for free, whether they are female/male? It could be that the famous musician just ran out of pickup lines and mistakenly decided that the direct approach was best. The incident served as a reminder that D’Angelo was not quite in the holy sabbatical state that all the music industry continually claimed he was. Worldly needs always have a way of pulling a person in, kind of like a spiritual voodoo of sorts.

In the beginning, there was D’Angelo & his debut album, Brown Sugar (1995). The album went platinum when it was released in July of that year. Any Gen Xers who love The Roots, Erykah Badu, Common, and Mos Def will probably tell you that Brown Sugar was the soundtrack to the summer of 1995. For any Millennials that have been watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and wondering who those 40-something-year-olds are in the band stand area, they are The Roots. The Roots were part of the whole neo-soul scene that D’Angelo helped usher in back in 1995; a collective of artists set in perfect musical timing from 1996 to the early 2000s. D’Angelo has numerous collaborations with these artists.

In 2000, D’Angelo released Voodoo and won a Grammy for his work. Rolling Stone magazine listed Voodoo as one of the 500 hundred greatest albums of all time. The cover of Voodoo has the same photo shot of DAngelo in his washboard abs stage that made the video for the album’s first single, “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” a hit. The single, “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” has a tone and sound that comes across like a sensual exorcism.

There was more collaboration with artists such as Q-tip, Roy Hargrove, Raphael Saadiq, Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre. In 2009, there were rampant rumors and some stop/start steps for his third solo album. It was highly anticipated and tentatively entitled, James River. D’Angelo worked on the album with ?uestlove, who confirmed in mid 2013 that it was almost complete, but that the album’s title, James River, had been changed. At midnight on December 15th 2014, D’Angelo released the album with its new title in place, Black Messiah. With the alchemy that is Black Messiah, the nine-year baptism was worth waiting for D’Angelo’s rebirth.

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