Randi Hernandez
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Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: D’Angelo


D'Angelo during Voodoo, around 2000

D'Angelo during Voodoo, around 2000

“The distilled ambiance of an Al Green song, the ambiguous sexual majesty of a Prince song, the creative genius of Stevie Wonder” – description of D’Angelo in the liner notes of his album Voodoo

“That n***a sounds like Bobby McFerrin on opium” –Same source as above

Never has an album set the mood for a romantic night as well as D’Angelo’s Voodoo does. Just skip to track #4 (“The Line”), and let that sucker play into the evening. Somebody’s going to get pregnant.

D'Angelo plays many of the instruments on his albums

D'Angelo plays many of the instruments on his albums

Unlike most of the other D stans in the world, I wasn’t obsessed with the single “Untitled (How Does it Feel)”. People jumped on D’Angelo for that track, most likely because of the highly sexualized video in which D was reportedly completely naked and being “serviced” throughout. Most argue his facial expressions during the shoot point to the alleged sexual act, but there are no proven reports that this is what actually happened. What most don’t know is that he was persuaded to shoot the video for this Prince tribute song nearly nude, and was against the idea in the first place. He thought the idea was ludicrous, and unfortunately, it continued to be an issue for him as his career progressed. According to his tour drummer, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, “He’d get angry and start breaking shit.” says Questlove. “The audience thinking, ‘Fuck your art, I wanna see your ass!’ Made him angry.” (http://www.whudat.com/newsblurbs/categories/C346/)

On right, still image from the video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"

On right, still image from the video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"

D’Angelo, born Michael Eugene Archer in Richmond, VA in 1974, was probably not comfortable with his image as a sex symbol, as he was the son of a Pentecostal Preacher. (wikipedia) Many of his album liner notes reference God and his devotion to God. It is important to mention that when he first started his career at age 21, he was quite chubby. He got svelte for Voodoo, but as you can see by the photos now, he is back to his old self. As a former fat girl who got skinny for a while, and is now back to being fat and happy, I can attest that it is very hard to deal with the instant attention that comes with getting fit. A healthy body image is hard to suddenly fit into, especially when you start fitting into a smaller size jeans. The ghost of the former fat person sometimes haunts you. This may have plagued D’Angelo. But I digress.

D’Angelo first got his break when he got a publishing deal after penning the song “U Will Know” for the soundtrack to Jason’s Lyric for the group Black Men United. Shortly after, he got a record deal with EMI and released his debut Brown Sugar in 1995. He worked with Raphael Saadiq and The Sequence’s Angie Stone on the project, and although Angie later mothered two of his children, he mentioned her in the liner notes by saying “everlasting love and respect to my ‘Big Sis’ Angie B. Stone”. On Brown Sugar, he had a hit with “Lady”, and his bad boy crooning captured many a heart in the music world. The single “Brown Sugar” was also successful, along with “Me And Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine”. Aside from the remake “Cruisin’”, D’Angelo wrote and produced the majority of the tracks on Brown Sugar, which certainly set him apart from many of the other “neo-soul” artists coming out around that time.

After Brown Sugar, D’Angelo’s “Devil’s Pie” was featured in the epic movie Belly, during the movie and at the start of the credits for the movie. He was also on the classic The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for his duet with L-Boogie “Nothing Even Matters”. He also performed many covers, including “She’s Always in My Hair” (which was on the Scream 2 soundtrack) and Eddie Kendricks’ “Girl You Need a Change of Mind”. He also sang the hook on the the EPIC, EPIC remix of Gza’s “Cold World”. In fact, it seemed as if he would never fall off, because during this time he was staying active and relevant in the music scene by jumping on other peoples’ tracks.

The cover of Voodoo left, cover of Brown Sugar right

The cover of Voodoo left, cover of Brown Sugar right

Finally, about 5 years after Brown Sugar, D’Angelo released Voodoo in 2000. Voodoo was heavily padded with the finest of musicians, including ?uestlove on drums, Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Pino Palladino on bass, James Poyser on keyboard, and Charlie Hunter on bass and guitar. In most cases, if D wasn’t getting help from these musicians, he was writing the music parts on the songs and PLAYING ALL THE OTHER INSTRUMENTS himself!!! Voodoo was obviously a labor of love for the musical craftsman, and he set himself apart from the average musician by saying: “More artists seem to yearn to own their own labels than they seem to yearn to master their crafts. No, we cannot allow any more ‘Bessie Smiths’ to occur, but once an artist owns their (sic) own publishing, the question then becomes, what are you going to publish?” (liner notes for Voodoo). A few of the best tracks on the album include “Send It On”, “Spanish Joint”, “The Root”, and “One Mo’Gin” – yet, unfortunately, too few people know about these tracks. D’Angelo won a Grammy for best male R&B vocal performance for “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” and a Grammy for best R&B album for Voodoo.

D’Angelo went on “The Voodoo Tour” after the release of the album, and was backed by the band The Soultronics, assembled by ?uestlove. Slum Village opened for many of the dates, and the talented Anthony Hamilton was one of the backup singers with the band. I am still mad I didn’t get a ticket to see this amazing group of musicians perform.

Recent photos, with D's mugshot on the right

Recent photos, with D's mugshot on the right

After this tour is when the “great wait” began for D’Angelo fans. The “where is D’Angelo?” questions were answered when he showed up in the Raphael Saadiq video for “Be Here” looking a little portly, and with some scraggly facial hair. Then in 2005, D was arrested for driving while intoxicated, possession of marijuana, and possession of a controlled substance (wikipedia). His mug shot shocked the public, to say the least. Then later in the year, on September 19, 2005, D’Angelo was critically injured in a car accident when the SUV he was driving hit a fence, ejecting him from the vehicle. He healed, but was hit with various charges. Plus, his baby momma Angie Stone, who rarely commented on his actions in interviews (she had her own music career, check her out!), started getting angry with D. She spoke out against his behavior, saying: “Ain’t nothin’ happen with us. I never really say nothin’ negative about him, but he’s on my shit list right now.” (http://www.dyfuse.com/?q=node/2589). After much coaxing, and after an alcoholic binge in San Juan, Puerto Rico, D’ Angelo finally checked into Eric Clapton’s Treatment Centre in Antigua in 2006 (http://www.spin.com/node/33730).

Although everyone is concerned with D’Angelo’s health, most fans are concerned with when D is going to put out another album. I mean, people are chomping at the bit for some new D material, much like they are for Lauryn Hill to make a (true) comeback. This year (2009), there was a virtual frenzy when iTunes announced they would release a “new” D’Angelo single. It turned out to just be the release of “I Found My Smile Again” on iTunes, which was a remake of the tune D’Angelo originally recorded for the 1996 Space Jam soundtrack. Most fans were totally disappointed, as this is far from “new”. D’Angelo HAS been popping up here and there though, like in “So Far to Go” on J. Dilla’s The Shining in 2006 (which was also on Common’s Finding Forever), on Q-Tip’s “Believe” in 2008 (which was actually for an older Q-Tip album – long story). He appeared on the tribute album Red Hot+Indigo, and on tracks with the group the RH Factor. Since around 2007, there has been buzz that his next album will be called James River and will feature collaborations with such artists as Prince, Raphael Saadiq, Roy Hargrove and Mark Ronson (http://www.wdkx.com/show_article/2009/01/21/D%27Angelo_And_Prince_-_Wow.html). But this album was supposed to drop in 2009 and – people! – 2009 is almost over. We hope this project eventually comes to fruition. We will take you looking any way D’Angelo, as long as you sound the same!

Until then, check out some rare D’Angelo tracks!

VIDEOS! (All Live, so you really get the idea)!

“Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” (language NSFW)

“Lady” (Listen for them saying “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego”)

“Cruisin'” (Check Angie Stone singing backup)

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2 Responses to “Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: D’Angelo”

  1. CHERYL says:

    HOW WELL DO I REMEMBER HIM. I LUVED HEARING AND LOOKING AT HIS PICS AND MUSIC, GREAT ARTIST

  2. emcee daniel says:

    the d. love that fool like a brother and i don’t even know him. i wish for his well being above new tunes, but dang i’d be down for a new record

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