After a fifteen year hiatus from any formal music release, singer, producer, and songwriter D’Angelo bestowed unexpected music fans his latest album, Black Messiah, at the turn of the new year.
On Dec. 12, 2014 producer Kevin Liles released a 15-second teaser for the new album on YouTube. Three days later on December 15, 2014 the album was released to traditional online outlets such as iTunes, Google Play Music, and Spotify.
This is the third release from the critically acclaimed R&B artist, whose previous records, Brown Sugar and Voodoo pioneered the rhythm and blues genre. D’Angelo’s style has often been compared to Prince and Marvin Gaye for his unique and soulful singing voice. His latest album draws influence from more traditional R&B acts such as Funkadelic and Sly & The Family Stone because of its focus on live instrumentation.
D’Angelo is accompanied with full live band called the Vanguard, whose big names include The Root’s Questlove, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, Pino Palladino, James Gadson and Kendra Foster. The band provides profound and chaotic instrumentation for the soulful range of D’Angelo’s infamous voice. The album often feels experimental and nuanced for utilizing a hectic sound to emphasize the soulful and spiritual element of the piece.
Q-Tip and Kendra Foster collaborated with D’Angelo on lyrics which glide upon subjects of politics, religion, and sex. Kendra Foster’s lyrical prowess can be heard on “The Charade”, the third track into the album which reflects upon a history of social and political racism and injustice experienced by African-Americans.
Some of the albums songs such as “1000 deaths,” “The Charade,” and “Till it’s done (Tutu),” seem to be inspired by the recent racial incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island. According to D’Angelo the album’s lyrics have been in production for the past fifteen years and they coincidentally have relevance in today’s political climate. He pushed for the albums release to be sooner than the originally scheduled 2015 date, stating: “The one way I speak out is through music. I want to speak out.”
While the United States public still grieves and reflects on the racial violence that has been reported by the media, writers and musicians have stayed silent. D’Angelo boldly addresses the issue through music with his ambiguous comeback album. In an era of turmoil and confusion, listeners can gain a sense of calm and righteousness through the Black Messiah.