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D’Angleo has a new album out. As a 30-year-old man, this is a phrase I haven’t been able to say

since high school. Although the album has been out for over a month, I feel the time is right to

analyze this new funk-soul masterpiece. D has been in no rush to release music and,

apparently, I am in no rush to review it. The creative process, it seems, was as intriguing as the

music itself.

 

D’Angleo dropped Black Messiah unexpectedly back in mid December. As this was D’s first

album in 14 years, so most fans of the sultry singer were just happy to have him back in the

charts. After his instant-classic, Voodoo, in 2000, D’Angleo (known to be reclusive) went into

hibernation. Over the course of the next decade or so, the man equally heralded for his

prodigious musical talent as for his fabulous abs in the “Untitled (How does it Feel?)” video,

managed to gain a bunch of weight, get busted for soliciting sex from an undercover cop and,

worst of all, RELEASED NO MUSIC. Things were not looking so great for D or his faithful

followers.

 

What few outside of D’Angleo’s camp knew was that, amidst all the chaos behind the scenes,

D’Angleo had been tirelessly studying the guitar and creating music all along. Our first glimmer

of hope was Erykah Badu, confirming in a 2011 interview at the Red Bull Music Academy, that

D’Angleo was indeed very musically active, albeit in no rush to release anything. She said of her

longtime friend and collaborator, “I’m waiting on it like you. I think we need that. The world

needs that voice”. She would soon get her wish…sort of.

 

D’Angleo would finally resurface on U.S. soil at the Bonnaroo Super Jam in 2012 with long time

collaborator Questlove of The Roots, former bass player Pino Paladino, Prince’s sax player Alan

Leeds and Jesse Johnson of the Time. The results were incredible. Although no new songs

were debuted, the band was back together and looking good. Next, D’Angleo began touring

with some spot dates in Europe, enlisting the help of super drummer Chris “Daddy” Dave. Early

versions of Black Messiah tunes like “Ain’t That Easy”, “Sugah Daddy” and “The Charade

started popping up at these shows. There was also a great BET Awards performance and, yet,

no album.

 

Rumor has it that the recording process for Black Messiah was an agonizing one and that the

album was pieced together from sessions all throughout D’s absence. The original release date,

apparently, was slotted sometime in 2015, but D’Angleo decided to actually push up the release

date in response to the events in Ferguson, MO. Indeed, with police brutally as a hot-button

issue in America, it seemed as though America could use a savior. The time had come for

D’Angleo’s resurrection.

 

Black Messiah opens up with the catchy, funky romp “Ain’t That Easy”, featuring Axis: Bold as

Love-esque spacey noise. In the chorus D croons “You can’t leave me/ain’t that easy”, almost

ironically, all the while wailing on guitar and delivering his trademark harmonies. “1000

Death’s” is up next and opens with a preacher condemning the classic white-hippy image of

Jesus over the top of slightly off-time feedback and an incredible bass line played by D’Angleo

himself. I suppose little is left to question about the album title by track 3. “Sugah Daddy” is

the highlight of the album featuring legendary drummer James Gadsen playing only a bass

drum and his knees with his hands. Although D’Angleo’s vocals are incredible mumbled on this,

and many, tracks, the work still stands up. It’s weird, it’s smooth, it’s funky.

 

D is also sure to respond to body image issues he apparently suffered as a result of his most

famous video showing off his physique. On “Back to the Future (Part 1)” he sings “If you’re

wonderin’/about the shape I’m in/I hope it ain’t my abdomen you’re referring to”. This playful

attitude is prominent on the album. Long noisy intros and jubilant hand claps are on many of

the albums tracks. Smooth soul guitar and super funky drums anchor each track chalked with

enough layers to make an onion blush.

 

The album has been received with much critical acclaim from journalists and rightly so.

Although this is only D’Angleo’s 3rd album in about 20 years, it’s a masterpiece. D’Angleo is truly

back and, if his album is any indication, Erykah Badu was right. The world might not need a

savior, but it certainly needs D’Angelo.

Written by Fusion Alternative BloggerJason Polakowski