6 months ago, there was an announcement that D'Angelo was going to headline Afropunk Fest 14'. Even though this wasn't the first official return of the R&B veteran (that happened at the BET Awards 2012), there was something special about that announcement. Many were wondering whether D'Angelo was going to play his classics like "Brown Sugar" and "Your My Lady", but soon were in for a surprise once he took the mic that evening on August 24th. Starting off with a strong cover of Bob Marley's "Burnin' and Lootin'" D'Angelo played an all new set at Afropunk, which turned out to be a good number of tracks from his new album.
If you were in the shadows over the past few days, you didn't seem to notice the internet going crazy over a weekend of D'Angelo announcements. It all started on Friday, when the official trailer for the album titled Black Messiah dropped. This led to the official single from the album, "Sugah Daddy" being released through Red Bull's 20 before 15 series on Saturday. Finally, Q-Tip and ?uestlove on Sunday proclaimed that the album would drop at Midnight. Now, here we are, with D'Angelo's long awaited album Black Messiah, his first album in 14 years since Voodoo.
Was Black Messiah worth the wait? Does D'Angelo still have the musical power he's had when he released "Untitled". The answer is yes. With a blend of soul from his past two albums, mixed in with a new take on funk and what seems to be a little rock from the band The Vanguard Black Messiah is a great return for D'Angelo.
The Vanguard is Hella Dope
We don't know how D'Angelo ended up linking up with The Vanguard for this album, but it works pretty well. The band provides an influential rock sound throughout the album, which is very similar to artists like Sly & The Family Stone and Funkadelic's sound of the soul in the 60s and 70s. D'Angelo's vocals with The Vanguard's work is aggressive, but smooth. The collective fits well with one another and tries to capture D'Angelo's previous sound while adding a new twist. Black Messiah's explosive intro, "Ain't That Easy" shows how The Vanguard can create a live beat to match D'Angelo's style of music.
D'Angelo Still Has That Voice
It might've been a while since we've heard D'Angelo sing on a track, but the man still has it. He continues to provide a smooth solo voice that is reinforced with multi-toned echoes in the backdrop, just like he did in "Devil's Pie" or "Untitled". One of the best songs on Black Messiah that illustrates this is "Another Life". The track ends the album with a beautiful instrumental by The Vanguard, while D'Angelo's smooth vocals cover the song.
There's a message in Black Messiah
While a lot of songs on the album is about love. There is a political message in Black Messiah, no matter how how much we are demeaned and oppressed, we are still a leader within ourselves. This message was explained when asked about the album's title:
Photo via Billboard
With this message in mind, Black Messiah prospers off of establishing a set that thrives off of a revolutionary base that to uplifts listeners. D'Angelo blesses us the same way radical bands like Funkadelic told us to "Free Our Minds, And Our Asses Will Follow" decades before, with a new reincarnation of sound for present society.
Black Messiah was the perfect album to bring D'Angelo back. The album was far from a forced collaborative, and the final product seemed to be both a reincarnation of revolutionary music through unity through guitars, drums, and vocals. After 14 years, D'Angelo returned smoothly and didn't disappoint.