Black Messiah

Black Messiah

A whirlwind of success left D’Angelo feeling sold for parts. Following his seminal album, 2000’s Voodoo, the neo-soul staple slipped into the shadows, disillusioned by his subsequent objectification, and burdened by personal struggles. Thus began one of music’s most memorable vanishing acts, only to resolve 14 years later, with the release of the multi-instrumentalist’s aptly titled third album, Black Messiah. R&B had gone through a series of evolutions during D’Angelo’s absence: There’d been the turn-of-the-century futurism of groups like Destiny’s Child and TLC, and the rise of Drake-inspired rapper-singers. But unlike several legacy acts who bent to the next big sound, D’Angelo remained firm in what felt true to him. Though he initially wanted to perform all of the album’s instrumentation himself—an idea inspired by his idol, Prince—D’Angelo’s love of collaboration prevailed, and he eventually called on fellow members of the Soulquarians, the legendary collective he’d worked with on Voodoo. He also recruited singer-songwriter Kendra Foster, who co-wrote more than half of Black Messiah’s 12 songs. This would be an album produced in an atmosphere of controlled chaos—one that would capture the same experimental spirit that had made Voodoo a neo-soul masterpiece. Recorded, processed, and mixed using analog equipment, Black Messiah captures the vintage funk and soul sounds of its predecessor, intertwined with a sociopolitically rich message. "It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen,” D’Angelo writes in the album notes. “It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them.” It’s an urgent album—and a timely one. Originally slated for release in 2015, Black Messiah arrived in late 2014, due to verdicts in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings. Songs like “1000 Deaths” and “The Charade” center on the Black experience, while the Grammy-winning “Really Love” centers on a message of love, coexisting with the singer’s past hits.

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