D’Angelo and The Vanguard
By: William Georges
Michael Eugene Archer, who goes by D’Angelo onstage, or R&B Jesus as dubbed by Christgau, has released his first album since Y2K, Black Messiah. The savior of modern R&B, his first two albums, Black Sugar, and the more upheld 2000 album Voodoo, combined the samurai sampling of Wu-Tang (thank you J-Dilla), the spirituality of Aretha Franklin, the seductiveness of Al Green, and the brute power of Prince, whisking them into a bowl of southern innovation.
Black Messiah, or any of D’angelo’s releases, are unique in that they do not simply showcase a voice that could melt even the most stalwart metalhead. Every second of Black Messiah is a reminder that D’Angelo still isn’t finished expanding R&B. Tracks like “Ain’t That Easy” and “1000 Deaths” harmonize arousal and spirituality behind sensual electricity, muted bass plucks and choir with some of the oddest time signatures this side of the Mississippi.
Nowhere in this album does D’Angelo put all his eggs in one basket—i.e“Sugah Daddy”; a juicy five minute R&B[anger] featuring choir falsettos, riding up and down sassy trumpet scales alters an already dynamic atmosphere. Additionally, D’Angelo proves that letting a simple hip/hop rhythm carry melodies like “Back to the Future (Part I)” isn’t necessarily succumbing to familiarity or reaching for ‘experimental minimalism’.
..But wait there’s more. For what would the king be without capturing the painful clapping and whistling Mississippi Delta blues? “The Door” paints D’Angelo as a prophet of drunken southern blues, reclined on train tracks howling as the city’s outliers clap in unison to his anthems of pain and regret.
Though probably not intended, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah feels like a memento of the 2000’s. With odd sampling reminiscent of Madlib’s “The Unseen”, the shrills and simplicity of Gnarls Barkley, the ambition of Andre 3000, and the sheer gravity of Jack White’s Mississippi Delta Blues reincarnation, D’Angelo comes back strong in 2014.
Start with: “1000 Deaths”, “Sugah Daddy”, “The Door”, “Another Life”
Similar: Frank Ocean, Gnarles Barkley, Outkast