In its simplest definition, messiah means savior. Whether or not D’Angelo and his camp decided to come in like a thief in the night and drop the long awaited follow-up to 2000’s Voodoo around Christmas time is a topic that can be discussed on a different day. In the lyric booklet that accompanies Black Messiah, D’Angelo states that:

‘Black Messiah’ is a hell of a name for an album. It can be misunderstood. Many will think it’s about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I’m calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.

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. It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them. Not every song on this album is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album Black Messiah creates a landscape there these songs can live to the fullest. Black Messiah is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader


It’s hard not call D’Angelo this generation’s musical savior. Questlove shares that sentiment during D’Angelo’s Red Bull Music Academy’s lecture earlier this year (38 minutes and 28 seconds in). Zo, one of Okayplayer’s main scribes, puts it this way:

 As a mid-twenties D’liever who took to Voodoo like an inmate to 5% Nation after high-school and got through his first years of college reading Questo’s Voodoo Diaries over and over again, this shit is monumental

Simply stated, Black Messiah is monumental. In a musical culture where Marvin Gaye’s camp was sued by Robin Thicke and Pharell, ongoing legal battles concerning Spotify occur, and the never ending debate of uncleared samples still occur, this shit is monumental.

Voodoo came out at the turn of the millennium when the latest version of Pro Tools that was available was 5.0. Fast forward today and Pro Tools 11 is available for purchase. But even with the advancement of recording technology, Black Messiah – according to engineer Rusell Elevado –  was recorded on tape and is stripped from any resemblance of DAWs. As a whole, the new D’Angelo album sounds like a continuation of Voodoo. Black Messiah is that old friend you grew up with and lost contact for a while only to see again years later and pick up right where you both left off.

After nearly 15 years of promises we finally have what we’ve all been waiting for. Foreign Exhange’s Nicolay put these past 15 years into perspective in a poignant Facebook post last night:

D’Angelo…. by mistake or by design… has put himself in a virtually impossible position. It is almost fifteen years since his last album came out. Children have been born, raised and gone to school in that time. Careers have started and tanked. Trends have come and gone, technology and internet have permeated our daily lives and processes. And most importantly, the traditional music industry model has collapsed during that time. There are no more record stores. Streaming is on the rise. Radio is more white washed than ever. Yes, the playing field has been leveled but participation is through the roof…

By waiting as long as he has, no matter how “right” the reason, the expectancy levels surrounding this album are insanely high, yet the circumstances under which it will be released are more difficult than ever. It’s a level of hype that is almost impossible to live up to…

To conclude, I’ll be totally honest and say that over the years I have grown quite weary of anything and everything having to do with D’Angelo’s new album. Too many false alarms. Too many comeback tours. Too many relapses.

But I remember the life-altering effect that ‘Voodoo’ had for me. I remember listening to it for the very first time and I remember that nothing has been the same for me since.

So… hey…. It’s his life, his music and he has the absolute right to do it his way. I’m going to buy this album the moment it comes out. In fact, I’m going to buy a few. I hope you will do the same. In this current era of music, we are blessed that an artist with the caliber of D’Angelo is among our midst.

Last week, a very good friend of mine told me that D’Angelo would release a new album titled Black Messiah. Like Nicolay, I was weary. I geeked just as hard as anyone did when I first saw those videos of D behind a CP-70 performing a medley in Paris back in 2012. I geeked even harder when I found out that Chris Dave was playing drums. Surely D’Angelo’s appearance and a GQ article meant that the follow-up to one of the most influential albums in my lifetime was near. How about that time when D’Angelo and Quest played at Brooklyn Bowl? Something in 2013 had to drop soon right? But a part of me knew that it was just a rouse. By the time the RBMA lecture rolled around, I was just honored to be alive and see D do give his public something to grab ahold of.

Christmas time – or the advent season for more traditional people – is a time where one is supposed to reflect in eager anticipation. As for music lovers all-around the world,  and those whose ears were rocked by Voodoo, that eager anticipation has been quelled.

D’Angelo – Soulquarians’ first son – released his Black Messiah at midnight on December 15th. Purchase your long-awaited copy here.


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