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It's safe to admit that much of the applause for Black Messiah is in part, down to the long wait fans have had to ensure. On occasion, fans can sometimes get swept up in the hype of an album's release - especially one that took fourteen years to arrive. Michael Eugene Archer's third album arrived right on time, it wasn't late nor was it rushed. From the start of Black Messiah, it feels as if D'Angelo is picking up where he left off. Significant because the protest theme on the album suggests that the dialogue isn't new, it's always been here, D'Angelo just picked up some new stuff along the way.
At one point in the fourteen year span of let downs and roadblocks, the album was destined to be called James River. With a bit of digging and patience, you'll be able to find some fan made mixtapes with some unreleased material. Therefore, when it was announced that a new album was on its way, fans were both skeptical and excited. D'Angelo never left music, it was always with him, that sort of magic doesn't leave someone. He even learned how to play the guitar in his time away from the public eye. Of course he became disenfranchised with industry and his image which led to a downward spiral but he has always been around, performing live shows, writing, producing, playing, doing whatever it is musicians of his ilk do.
Everything about Black Messiah was inherently inspired by Prince and Sly Stone. Even the name of the act suggests so, D'Angelo and The Vanguard was an ode to Prince and The Revolution and Sly and The Family Stone. It's also worth noting that this 'neo-soul' movement that D'Angelo birthed has always existed. D'Angelo's music hasn't always been just R&B or soul, it's a fusion of different sounds that came before him. He's experimented with funk, rock and gospel all elements of R&B, of which can be found on Black Messiah. However, the term exists due to the desire to differentiate this refreshing sound that came at a time when R&B was considered to be very superficial. It was D'Angelo's influence that helped spark the decision to form the Soulquarians collective, a group of like-minded musicians that included Erykah Badu, Common, Bilal, J Dilla and ?uestlove, who had also worked on the album.
Even on the songs such as '1000 Deaths' and 'The Charade' where the protest and frustration is clear, they are still funkadelic odes to of black culture. "All we wanted was a chance to talk/ 'Stead we've only got outlined in chalk," a line from 'The Charade', was distinct. These songs, nor the album, were made on a whim or in response to the recent events that have swept the US. Although, the timing of Black Messiah's release was profound and had deep meaning. "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 said in the notes. "Black Messiah is not one man. It's a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader." Vocally, Black Messiah is sparse, but sonically, it is accomplished and fulfilled. Every sound, every instrument, every lyric and harmony is in the place it needs to be. Such is the way of D'Angelo, he is a perfectionist, at one point he disliked the title track from Brown Sugar because he felt it lacked something.
We always ask where this generation's Marvin Gaye, Prince, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and so on is. Since 1995, D'Angelo has given the world Brown Sugar and Voodoo - both timeless bodies of work in their own right and now Black Messiah. To place him among the aforementioned isn't just a tremendous achievement, anyone who does so would be vindicated. The great thing about it all is that it only took him three albums and sprinklings of collaborations to do it all. There's no denying the impact of Black Messiah.
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