By Jake Ebdale
Released Monday December 15th, 2014 - Sony Music
D'Angelo has finally returned with his third album, Black Messiah. A 14 year gap is an eternity by industry standards - long enough for fans to forget you completely.
Luckily, Messiah shakes the dust off with its first two tracks, picking up where his previous 2000 masterpiece Voodoo left off. His trademark sound has retained the groove and vibe, but is now heavier, uglier and at times, confrontational. In short: D has delivered a masterpiece that exists entirely on its own planet.
Opener ‘Aint That Easy' starts off with Hendrixian feedback before kicking into a drunken Sly Stone groove. His vocals are even more off-kilter, multi-tracked and alien-like than before. At times, they're quite haunting.
‘1000 Deaths' is the craziest thing D's ever released - a dry, stuttering cacophony of bass and drums. There are many dark moments on the record - especially the doomful Dilla homage ‘Prayer' - with the lyrics buried deep in the tripped out murk that is Russell Elevado's analog production.
Messiah also offers lighter moods. ‘Really Love' is a beautiful ode to intimacy. ‘Sugah Daddy' is a vaudevillian pimp anthem, at times hilarious. ‘Back to the Future' playfully addresses his role in the seductive ‘Untitled'video. (‘If you've been wonderin' about the shape I'm in, I hope it's not my abdomen you're referring to.') There are influences worn on the sleeve - this time around, it's the Beatles and Funkadelic at large.
So yes - Black Messiah was well worth the wait. It's rare to witness a release that causes celebrity fans to geek out (Timberlake and Pharrell, for example). The thing is, it'll take you 14 years to digest what Messiah is really about. It's political, personal, sexual and spiritual. For someone with a large disregard for time, D'Angelo has created a work deeply entrenched in the past, but also, something surprisingly relevant for these times of unrest. In doing so, it also points far into the future.
The lesson learnt here? Good things come to those who wait. Here's to 2025.