jesus christ i feel like its January 24th 2000 all over again. #1130
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) December 14, 2014
Seeing this tweet while randomly scrolling my Twitter feed is what started this intense musical odyssey. I couldn’t call it anything else if I wanted to. Voodoo was released on January 25, 2000 and I haven’t heard music the same since. Falling down that rabbit hole led to years of study — my sister Katrina & I traversed every Yoda figure’s catalogue in search of what made this one man so iconic.
(The above quote is from a 2003 Believer Magazine interview with Questlove.)
Black Messiah was released at midnight this past Sunday. Me and sis downloaded together, anxious for what awaited us. By now we consider ourselves experts in D’Bonics and we were eager to dissect this new material, this fresh offering of sonic art…
I must confess: I pressed play and I haven’t come down since. From the opening notes to the immaculate closer, I was struck by so much that I don’t know if I’ll ever process it all. D’Angelo never fell off or lost his game to me — he merely stopped taking the court. I first noticed how the music immediately locks you into his groove, a staple of every D project. His band here is the Vanguard and few artists have coalesced with such an aptly titled collective. Questlove and Chris Daddy Dave on drums; Pino Palladino on bass; Jesse Johnson and Spanky Alford on guitar. And that’s just to name a few because there are others…including the man himself.
D has chops. Like serious chops. He has always been musically self-sufficient even before the Brown Sugar days. Here he is able to shift quite comfortably between keys, bass, lead guitar, & even sitar. We were warned years ago that D was honing his axe skills and he does not disappoint. Quite frankly, the Jimi Hendrix & Curtis Mayfield influences shine brighter. I’m positive that Spanky will besmiling in heaven at how these compositions play out on tour. Props also go out to the string arrangements (Brent Fischer) and the horn section (curated by Roy Hargrove).
Lyrically, D’Angelo is cut from a different cloth. True, “Untitled” from Voodoo
But at the core of it all, this sounds like a 12 page letter from D’s heart. “Really Love” (which, when leaked, allegedly caused the rift between D’Angelo and Questlove) is here in all of its finished glory. That inimitable falsetto anchors this album’s best shot at radio and many would champion the choice. “Betray My Heart” is an aural ethos from a man who knows that his love is sincere. And I dare not try to describe “Another Life” for fear of sounding inadequate so go listen for yourself.
This is not just a great record — this is a call to arms. This is a reminder that music is just what feeling sounds like. This is a challenge to artists young and old who have ever questioned whether staying true to themselves is worth it. My homegirl hit me earlier and said, “It’s so funky… A funk I haven’t heard in ages.” I wholeheartedly concur. In short, Black Messiah is a masterpiece.