dangelo-2

D’Angelo: Searching For Michael Archer

Eight

years. While some say that’s a long time, for music lovers, eight years

is an eternity. Especially if it involves your favorite artist.  While Michael Archer has made legal news in a courtroom near you, his musical alias D’Angelo is approaching Dr. Dre Detox levels as fans hold out for a new album.  Eight years since the last D’Angelo

project dropped and the music still lingers. His presence and influence are felt among those who embrace that movement he started. Something

called Neo Soul. Still,

even the Neo disciples have to wonder what is going on with the man

behind it all and whether or not he will be able to sit atop of the R&B throne.And while no one has christened himself or herself ruler, we only need to listen to the talent around us to know that the soul is still alive. Question is, who stole the soulster? All the missing persons talk seems a far cry from when D’Angelo stood out among R. Kelly, Raphael Saadiq and a who’s who of ‘80s and ‘90s R&B heavyweights as the writer and producer of the Black Men United single “U

Will Know.” The talent was there, but with the veterans on hand for the

song and accompanying video, we couldn’t fully embrace the potential of

D’Angelo, let alone the movement he was about to usher in.  Sure enough, the prophecy was fulfilled

on July 3, 1995. Although Brown Sugar arrived with little fanfare, the

album spawned a slew of classic material. Whether it was the slick ode

to marijuana on the title cut, shades of Smokey Robinson found on the

remake of “Cruisin’,” or the feeling of knowing you’ve found your soulmate after listening to “Lady,” D’Angelo proved that he had something to offer listeners.  And let’s not even get into the realness of later tracks like “S**t, Damn, M****rf****r”

or “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine.” It’s not often you hear music

that can stand alone without the required remix, but these tracks did

just that as we started getting acquainted with D’Angelo and his Neo Soul relatives Maxwell and Erykah Badu.  There was no doubt that we had found a new soundtrack to live life to. And with that came a craving for the next D’Angelo

album. But like any artist with a healthy legion of fans, Mr. Archer

played the waiting game. And he played it well as the rules were

slightly bent with soundbites to hold us over.  Movie soundtracks proved to be the perfect vehicle as D’Angelo

gave us original material (“Devils Pie” from Belly) and covers of past

hits (Eddie Kendricks’ “Girl You Need a Change of Mind” from Get on the

Bus, Prince’s “She Always in My Hair from Scream 2 and the Ohio Players’ “Heaven Must Be Like This” from Down in the Delta). And through all of this, we discover a classic duet with Lauryn Hill (“Nothing Really Matters”) off the rap diva’s own stellar solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.A single here and there is good, but could lightning strike twice for D’Angelo? The doubts were put to rest five years later as Voodoo debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 charts after its January 11, 2000 release. Add to that the two Grammys the vocalist got in 2001 for Best R&B Album of the Year and Best R&B

Vocal Male Performance, and it would be safe to say that the sophomore

jinx was nowhere to be found. But the nail in the jinx coffin came with

Voodoo’s third single “Untitled (How Does it Feel?).” Although the song, which D’Angelo co-wrote with Saadiq,

illustrated Prince’s influence on the singer, it was the track’s video

that became the topic of many conversations among women. Featuring

nothing more than a half-naked and muscular D’Angelo, the clip elevated D’Angelo

to sex symbol status while making it hard for the average joe to not

think about hitting the gym in an effort to keep his woman from

thinking about somebody other than him when spending quality time.  Needless to say, D’Angelo attained platinum status two months after Voodoo‘s release. No doubt. Life for the soul stirrer was good. Damn good.  Then

something strange happened on the way to the Voodoo follow-up. Michael

Archer returned, along with a string of legal problems.  The

year 2005 proved to be time of lows as the singer was charged with

possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and

driving while intoxicated in January. A guilty plea on the DUI and

marijuana charge resulted in a fine, suspended sentence and a revoked

driver’s license in April. Five months later, Archer answered to the

cocaine possession charge by receiving a three-year suspended sentence. Mugshots surfaced of a D’Angelo with very noticeable weight gain, slightly resembling a singer we once knew. And

if things couldn’t get worse, the crooner’s luck went from bad to worse

as he suffered bruised ribs and contusions after being ejected from an

SUV he was riding in a week after he was sentenced. Close to a year

later, a light seemed to be at the end of the tunnel as reports began

surfacing about Archer completing a stint in rehab on the island of

Antigua.  D’Angelo

sightings were even spoken of as rumblings of work being done on a

follow up to Voodoo came to light in addition to a string of appearance

on albums from J. Dilla, Red, Hot and Riot, the RH Factor, Snoop Dogg and Common, who brought D’Angelo out of hiding to appear on “So Far to Go,” a song off his latest album Finding Forever. Despite

things looking up, Archer reemerged on Aug. 10, 2007 to appear in court

on charges related to the September 2005 car accident. The singer

pleaded guilty to reckless driving and driving with a suspended license.

As a result, he was fined $1,000, with $500 suspended, and sentenced

the crooner to nine days in jail -all suspended- and revoked his

license for 90 days on the suspended license charge.To add to the

misery, Archer was fined $1,500, with $750 suspended, sentenced him to

six months in jail -also suspended- and suspended his license for twelve

months on the DUI charge. Also dropped was a reckless driving charge. Despite the negative encounters with the law, D’Angelo offered a glimmer of hope for fans as he confirmed that new music is “in the works.”Still,

with no solid title or release date for the album, the future looks

questionable for any new D’Angelo music to arrive in stores. Maybe one day the

soul will return. Until then we’ll keep searching and listening to the past song stylings of the man who should be here to take us and R&B higher.

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