The Only Black Messiah Review You Need
Written by Danny P Ocean on December 30, 2014
After 14 long years, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah fills every hunger pain you may have had as you waited for the chef to cook his main entree. Over the years we were fed lil appetizers in the forms of released incomplete tracks or occasional appearances on different songs. But nothing held us over, and we just waited in disgust after false start after false start got our hopes up just to blow our high. Damn, will D’Angelo ever drop another record we thought. And damnit just like that it finally dropped out of nowhere.
Many fans, listeners, critics, and haters ran to their keyboard after first listen and gave their official rating. However with an album like Black Messiah you have to let it simmer on the stove. Just like D’Angelo took his time to record this collection of music, you have to take your time to review, if you don’t you won’t be giving this album the proper justice it deserves.
So I listened to Black Messiah, and I listened to Black Messiah again. While some friends in my circle called it trash, and while others called it the second coming of Sgt. Pepper, I chilled. I rode to the album at night. I rode to the album at noon. I listened to it with a cigar in my hand. And I listened to the album as I cooked my waffles. I let the album speak to me. And Moguls what it revealed to me is that this opus is just what the doctor ordered.
From the very beginning you know that this album is on some other shit. It begins with what sounds like the Mothership landing at a Voodoo party. As the UFO sounds give way to guitar licks you can just imagine Funkadelic, Parliament, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone all sitting at the campfire as D’Angelo & The Vanguards drop fire on the party. Within in the first minute you realize this is that other shit that so many artist in the past have talked about taking you to. This my friends is what it sounds like to flip the fucking script. Damn a MPC sequence, damn your fruity loops, damn whatever new out the box computer program you are used to hearing; this is what instruments sound like….. FUNK!
Over the past 20 years we as the masses have been conditioned to accept watered down, cookie cutter music that is so predictable we know exactly when the chorus will drop in the first time we hear it. Cats don’t even take it to the bridge anymore. So when you get to an album like Black Messiah it is a refreshing return to funk in all it splendid funkiness. Who the hell else can give you that feeling?
Black Messiah plays like a student who has become the master of his class. D’Angelo was a mere padawan when we first heard him on Brown Sugar, but he has returned 2 albums later as Master Yoda in a council of C3POs. No one is touching dude. Take “The Charade” for example, D’Angelo at times seems to be harmonizing with the bass line, using his voice as an extension of the groove as opposed to being the main attraction. The song begs for you to follow along and feel what he is saying instead of hearing what he says. This technique guarantees jewelz to be gathered years down the road. While most songs you hear today can be summed up during the 3 and 1/2 minutes it plays, this song will be studied in music classes years down the road like an university studies Lennon and McCartney compositions.
Speaking of The Beatles an artist hasn’t found a way to marry classical sounds with contemporary instruments since the lads from England. But D’Angelo did it masterfully on “Really Love”; Jedi shit. Instead of forcing the lyrics and structure into a predetermined formula, D weaves through sounds, lyrics, and harmonizes at his own pace and style. Similar to a young Ali with butterflies in his shoes. Not confining himself in what a song should sound like, but how he feels the song should go. And once again the vocals are layered to not only provide a backing harmony but to also flatter the soundscape that a song like “Really Love” paints. Yoda with a paint brush folks, clear your eyes.
To get the picture of this canvas you need some good speakers. Computer speakers will not give this album the righteous treatment it calls for. Imagine listening to Songs In The Key of Life on your iPod ear buds. You lost. “Till It’s Done (Tutu)” needs to breath. The beauty in this gem lies in the gradual buildup to the climactic conclusion that switches up to a groove out fade. Listen up young padawan, this ain’t yo average Trey Songz r&b song. This is what flipping the script sounds like.
Even the most easily accessible song “Another Life” is on some next level shit. The beautiful piano melody blends in perfectly with the falsetto of D’Angelo’s voice. This is the song that Prince lovers will say sounds the most Princely, and it does for the most part. But this is the Prince sound that you haven’t heard since Sign O’ The Times. The sound that Prince has either ran away from or simply can’t recreate is done here with ease. Padawan take notes will you?
All in all Black Messiah sounds like the B -Side to Voodoo, and that is not a bad thing. With an artist as unique as D’Angelo he/she can take years off and return sounding just as fresh as they did when they left; see Sade and Maxwell. With only 3 albums under his belt D’Angelo has left a buffet of music for music lovers to study for years to come. Listen up padawans.
RATING: 5 Bowties