Miguel: Hey, welcome back to They Reminisce Over You. I’m Miguel.
Christina: And I’m Christina. And this week we’re talking about Michael Eugene Archer.
Miguel: Who dat?
Christina: D’Angelo! He is a one take singer, a songwriter. He plays a million instruments and was at the forefront of the so-called neo soul movement.
Miguel: The title that no one really likes.
Christina: Yep. Though he only has three studio albums, with the third one coming out 14 years after the second one he’s still considered one of the greats of R&B, soul, and just as an artist overall, as he’s experimenting with different types of music and evolving.
Christina: So shall we get into it?
Miguel: I think we should.
Christina: All right, let’s do it.
Christina: So let’s talk a little bit about how he got started. So I actually didn’t know this until I started watching just random interviews and reading a bunch of stuff, but he won an amateur talent competition at the Apollo Theater, three weeks in a row when he was 18. No, no 16. No, 18. I don’t know teenager.
Miguel: He was young.
Christina: In my notes, I have 18 and 16. He was a teenager.
Christina: I don’t know if you saw this interview. I think this was the one with, what’s his name? Nelson...
Miguel: Nelson George.
Christina: Yeah, who’s pretty much in every kind of music related thing.
Christina: He was talking about how, like, there was a bunch of kids that traveled together on a bus or something to get there.
Miguel: No I didn’t see that part.
Christina: Yeah. There’s a bunch of them just traveling on a bus and I guess they had some adult chaperones or something. He was saying how they were trying to tell him what to do. Like don’t sing a gospel song. You’re going to get booed. And he was dead set on singing a Peabo Bryson song.
Miguel: That’s random.
Christina: Yep. And so he said just before he was about to go on, there was a girl singing a gospel song before him.
Miguel: And she got booed?
Christina: He said they booed they shit out of her. And she was crying.
Miguel: Oh, man. The Apollo used to be ruthless.
Christina: Yes. I’m like, oh man, they’ll boo you for singing a gospel song. But—
Miguel: They would boo you for anything at the Apollo.
Christina: He didn’t say if he ended up changing his song, which he probably didn’t, cause I don’t think you could just change it last minute. But then he said, then they introduce him as this kid from waaaaay down south. And then he said, they went “Boooooo!” before he even came out.
Miguel: That’s harsh.
Christina: And he’s from Virginia?
Christina: Way down south. So then he said they booed him before he even came out, but he still won them over, made it back to the next round. But this time he’s like, I’m going to sing something a little more up-tempo.
Christina: “Rub You The Right Way.” Johnny Gill.
Christina: And he said he won first place with that one.
Miguel: As a teenager he’s singing Johnny Gill’s “Rub You the Right Way?” Yes I need need to see this.
Christina: I was trying so hard to find it. You know how I try not to use Google because privacy.
Christina: When I’m really desperate and I can’t find it on DuckDuckGo, I will go to Google. I still couldn’t find it. I found an old video of Lauryn Hill getting booed when she was on the Apollo, but I’m like, okay, if this 13 year old Lauryn Hill video exists, why can’t I find D’Angelo singing “Rub You The Right Way?”
Miguel: He had it scrubbed from the internet. He doesn’t want us to see it.
Christina: Yeah. So I want to see that really badly. I just think it would be hilarious to see a teenage D’Angelo singing Johnny Gill.
Miguel: Yeah. Because I can’t imagine his voice the way it sounds now trying to growl and sing “Rub You the Right Way.”
Christina: As a teenager too.
Miguel: Yeah. So, you know, his voice was even higher and sounding like he needed to go through puberty probably.
Miguel: Yeah. I think we’re gonna have to track this down.
Christina: I don’t know. I hope somebody has it. I tried, but maybe you should.
Miguel: Yeah. If anybody has a connect to D’Angelo out there, tell him to post it on instagram.
Christina: Or the Apollo archives or something.
Miguel: Yeah. Let us know so we can see it.
Christina: Another thing I found out that he was briefly in a hip-hop group called IDU.
Miguel: What does IDU stand for?
Christina: Intelligent, Deadly, but Unique.
Miguel: Oh God.
Christina: We don’t know which—it was him and two friends, so we don’t know which ones which—I don’t know which one’s which, I couldn’t find that info.
Miguel: That’s a very '80s, early '90s name.
Christina: Yeah so apparently as a group they cut a demo tape but that demo ended up getting him signed as a singer.
Miguel: Yeah I saw that. That he ended up getting like, a songwriting deal before his recording contract.
Christina: Which is how he ended up with his first major success which we do know. I didn’t know all this other stuff, but we do know about “U Will Know.” The Black Men United song that we had talked about in the Tevin episode actually.
Miguel: Right. And I obviously, like I said, then didn’t know who the hell he was so—
Christina: Just some kid on the piano.
Miguel: Yeah. So I had no clue. And even when you mentioned it during that episode, I didn’t even realize it was him. So I had to go back and watch it.
Christina: Well, I mean, Brown Sugar ended up coming out a year later in 1995. So when Brown Sugar came out, I recognized him right away. I was like, oh, he’s the guy...
Miguel: Not me.
Christina: In the “U Will Know” video.
Miguel: Not me. It was 2021 because I hadn’t seen the video since the '90s. So I did not recognize it. Cause I’m too busy looking at all the stars that are in it.
Christina: So, I mean, that’s a pretty big, like, first success.
Christina: So he, co-wrote and co-produced it. His brother also co-wrote it with him as well. So that was in 1994. And as we mentioned, just now, and also on the Tevin episode, like every Black male R&B singer was pretty much on the song. Solo or group.
Miguel: And that’s a pretty big deal for an unknown artist to not only have that level of talent be singing your song, but you also the producer as well. And you don’t have an album out. Like how did you manage that?
Christina: And like in the video, he’s basically the conductor as well. Like he’s the Quincy Jones of “We Are The World.” So that’s a pretty big deal for a kid.
Miguel: It is.
Christina: I believe he was 18 or so by this time.
Miguel: That's crazy.
Christina: Yeah. So he must have been 16 at the Apollo then, because my notes are all messed up now, but—
Miguel: He’s out here telling Gerald Levert what to do.
Christina: That’s a pretty big start. And then, Brown Sugar, which came out, his first album in 1995 a year later.
Miguel: Which was mostly produced by him as well. You’re entrusting somebody 18, 19 years old, maybe 20 at the time to—
Christina: I think he might have been, so he’s a year older than you I believe.
Christina: So how old were you in 1995? Do some quick maths.
Miguel: I was 20. So that would make him 21.
Miguel: Even then like an unknown artist—
Christina: But you know, he’s probably working on it for at least a year or something.
Miguel: Yeah. Letting him write, produce and basically—
Christina: Play all the instruments.
Miguel: Do everything by himself basically. Like him and Bob Power is credited on it as a producer. He’s an engineer who used to work with like Tribe Called Quest. So I don’t know how much input he had in terms of actual production or if it was more of, we need to turn this down, turn this up.
Christina: I remember him talking about Bob Power in one of the interviews, I can’t remember what he said exactly, but I did think he did have a lot of influence over it.
Miguel: Yeah, enough to be credited as a producer.
Miguel: The only other two production credits are on “Brown Sugar” with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and on “Lady” with Raphael Saadiq. So that’s pretty good company to be in on your debut album.
Christina: And I think what made this album stand out at the time is, so this was released in 1995. We’ve mentioned many times around this time, there was a lot of that hip-hop/R&B sound.
Christina: And as much as Mary J. and singers like her, male or female, brought in sort of the churchy, old school R&B sound, it did have very distinct '90s hip hop vibe. Even though it was a current, current at the time, depiction of R&B, I guess, it still sounded a little more old-school, soulful. Hence that term neo soul.
Miguel: Which as I’m like, going through stuff, prepping for this, everybody who gets hit with the neo soul label hates it.
Christina: He was being a little more diplomatic about it.
Christina: He’s like, I just don’t want to be boxed into one category.
Miguel: And I don’t remember who said it, but they basically said that claiming neo soul is new and it’s coming back implies that soul music died when it actually didn’t. Other things just became more popular in the '80s and '90s, early '90s, but it never really died. So that’s why they didn’t really like the neo soul label.
Christina: I always just looked at it as saying like, this is the '90s version soul. Not necessarily like that old shit sucks.
Miguel: And it’s not like they could do anything about it because once the cat’s out of the bag, we just going to call it neo soul.
Christina: So this album was very much a newer type of soul because even songs like “When We Get By,” if you had told me that was a cover, I would have believed you, but it’s not.
Miguel: No not at all.
Christina: It’s an original song written by him. You know how on Tidal, they’ll include a little bio for each album. So the bio for this album said, hip hop attitude. I’m like, actually, that’s a good way to describe it because—
Miguel: Because it’s not a hip hop album.
Christina: It’s not a hip hop album. It’s not hip hop sound, but he has the hip hop attitude, which hence, it’s not that surprising that he was in a rap group with his buddies back in the day, right? It’s like, okay. Of course he was, right? He claims that he was a “fucking good MC” I think that’s what he said. And then Nelson George is like, you can’t say something like that and not spit a rhyme.
Miguel: Of course.
Christina: And he refused to do it.
Miguel: So somebody needs to dig that up too.
Christina: But at the same time, I can see it. Because when you think about how he sings “Brown Sugar,” it does kind of almost sound like it might have used to been a rap or something and he decided to sing it instead.
Miguel: Yeah. A few of his songs, he has kind of a rap cadence, so I don’t see it—I shouldn’t say that. I do see him being a rapper. I can’t say that he was a good one. That I’m going to need proof of.
Christina: Yes. But I could see the influence, even if his music isn’t as much of that '90s hip hop, R&B. It’s much more soulful and kind of old school R&B. But I could see it. I’m not surprised, but I think singing was the better route for him.
Miguel: I still want proof though.
Christina: I still want to hear it, but he refused to do it.
Christina: The other thing that I always thought was hilarious about one of the songs on this album is he can make a song called “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” and make it sound like a cool jazzy, smoky, club song. When he’s talking about “I’m about to go get my nine,” 'cause he catches his woman cheating.
Miguel: With his friend.
Christina: Yeah. With his friend and then he ad-libs “motherfucker.” Hilarious. I remember showing the song to a friend of mine. So probably '95, teenager, like 14, 15 or something. And she was like, church girl. And you know, didn’t listen to this kind of stuff and swear words.
Miguel: This was a bit too much for her?
Christina: She was like, “that does sound nice actually.”
Miguel: Oh that’s funny.
Christina: But she was like, “all right.” Because I was telling her, I was like, I know you don’t like this kind of stuff, but you need to hear this cause it’s just funny that he made this sound like a soulful song.
Miguel: You out here spreading the D’Angelo gospel.
Christina: I tried. But, when I was re-listening to this album, I was like, yeah, this is very much Love Jones, “brother to the night” shit.
Miguel: Yeah. Yeah. And speaking of neo soul, we were getting quote-unquote neo soul movies around this time too. So everything fits together.
Christina: Speaking of him also playing a bunch of instruments. In the video for “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes Of Mine,” he’s playing the cello. He’s playing the piano, he’s playing the drums. He’s playing the guitar. It’s a bunch of D’Angelos in a band playing all these instruments. And here’s your reminder of how old we are.
Christina: He’s flirting with a girl in a phone booth.
Miguel: That’s funny.
Christina: In the video. A phone booth.
Miguel: And we just saw a payphone recently for the first time in who knows when?
Miguel: Oh, man. The funny thing about him playing all the instruments in that video is he actually didn’t play those instruments at the time.
Christina: Oh? Kay.
Miguel: Cause, I was reading that he learned to play guitar after Voodoo.
Christina: Hmm. I was like, I’ve never heard him talk about playing a cello, but we know he plays piano. I also knew he played drums and guitar. So I just assumed he played those at the time.
Miguel: No. He learned guitar after Voodoo when he kind of disappeared for a while. But we can get to that later.
Christina: 'Cause he did mention that when he played piano, he would try to mimic guitar sounds in one of these many interviews that I watched. So I guess maybe that’s why I assumed he played all of it.
Miguel: Nope. He said he learned then.
Christina: Did you watch any of the videos?
Miguel: I watched “Lady.” I watched the “Lady” remix. And that’s it.
Christina: Okay. Another thing about this album, if you are streaming it. There are two versions. There’s the regular Brown Sugar version. And then there’s a deluxe edition, at least on Tidal. I’m assuming all streaming services has the same version. So even though the regular version says Brown Sugar is, um, it has the explicit label. He says the “n-word” in the song and the bleep it out. But it’s so annoying because instead of just like silence or something, they use like this horn tweaking sound.
Miguel: I don’t remember that.
Christina: Oh, it’s so annoying. And I couldn’t remember which version had it and which one didn’t. So if you’re streaming it on Tidal or other streaming services, listen to the deluxe edition.
Miguel: That’s funny.
Christina: So that you don’t hear the [mimics noise]. Oh, and also another thing I noted when I was watching the “Brown Sugar” video. He is one of the few people—like, I hate smoking so much. I hate cigarettes so much, but he makes chain smoking looks cool.
Miguel: I can’t go that far because I hate smoking too, but you know, he’s a musician, right? That’s what they do.
Christina: It fits his aesthetic.
Miguel: Yeah. He’s a jazz man at heart.
Christina: So what was your impression of this debut album?
Miguel: I liked it because as you know, I have, an eclectic musical taste. Like I’m deeply entrenched in hip hop, but, you know, I listen to it like Sly and The Family Stone, Parliament, and Funkadelic, and a bunch of stuff like that from the early seventies. So that’s why it kind of fit. And I didn’t find it weird. And we’ll probably talk about this later, but the direction his career was going after this as well, it kind of strayed further and further away from hip hop, but it didn’t seem weird to me. So I was all in from the first time I heard it.
Christina: Same. I loved it right from the beginning. Unlike some folks, I didn’t need to see him shirtless to be interested.
Miguel: It’s funny that the whole shirtless thing ended up being such a problem for him because I listened to Questlove on Rick Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. And he was saying how after this album D’Angelo was a big boy, and had a trainer. The label got him a trainer to make him lose weight because he was so big. And I’m like, he wasn’t big though.
Christina: Maybe we didn’t see it because we didn’t have social media back then.
Christina: During the time of like, this album being released and music videos and stuff, we saw him then. He wasn’t like, a big boy per se, but he wasn’t skinny.
Miguel: Yeah, he wasn’t skinny. He wasn’t the “Untitled” video, but he didn’t look big to me.
Christina: I remember seeing him in an award show where he might, I could say he was a little chubby, but even like you know, it’s just like, okay, he’s not skinny.
Christina: He might be an extra large instead of a large.
Christina: It wasn’t like, this guy needs to lose weight. And even fully clothed, he always had a lot of sex appeal like him, like LL, always licking their lips and stuff, right? I mean, I guess obviously if you’ve seen the “Untitled” video, that’s more than him licking his lips while he’s wearing a leather coat and baggy jeans, but I just think it’s funny that so many people kind of almost discovered him through the “Untitled”—I don’t know if it’s in his head thinking like, oh, people just like me for this now, or if that actually helped him gain more mainstream appeal. It’s hard to say because I was just a fan from the beginning. So think it was hard for me to see whether that made that much of a difference.
Miguel: I can see it and I will get to it when we get to Voodoo.
Christina: Okay. So what was your favorite song on the Brown Sugar album?
Miguel: My favorite song is the “Lady” remix or “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes Of Mine.” It’s a tie between those two. Because the “Lady” remix gives me my hip hop sensibilities.
Miguel: And “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes Of Mine” is kind of old school.
Miguel: I get a little of both.
Christina: Okay. Depending on your mood?
Miguel: Yeah. What about you?
Christina: For me, it will always be “Lady.”
Christina: This is actually a no skip album for me but it’s always going to be “Lady.”
Christina: I like the “Lady” remix as well and since I said it’s a no skip album, obviously that means I like every other song too. But yeah, for me, something about “Lady,” it’ll always be that.
Miguel: Okay. Something that’s going to come up a lot in this is something that Questlove has said about D’Angelo, since they’re so close. He was talking about how he basically talked himself out of working on the Brown Sugar album, because he was hating on '90s R&B singers. Which is funny because of all of the stuff we think of Questlove being a part of since then. Like, why are you hating on singers? He just said that the singers of that time really didn’t touch him in the way that old seventies soul singers did. So he was like, ehh. I don’t feel like working with no D’Angelo. Who is that? So he basically just like, nah.
Christina: Wrote him off.
Miguel: I’ll pass. Until he heard the actual album, which we mentioned on The Source Awards episode. Well, the bonus—
Christina: The bonus episode.
Miguel: On The Source Awards. When he said that as he’s running out of the theater at Madison Square Garden, when Snoop is on stage talking about “y’all ain’t got no love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg?”
Christina: He grabbed his date and ran out, cause he was like some shit’s about go down.
Miguel: It’s getting ugly in here. I got to go. And he just said that this guy basically chases him down to give him a cassette and is like, I think you’ll like this. You need to listen to it. And he said, if there was a garbage can around, he was going to throw it away. But he threw it in his pocket, ran back to the hotel. Gets to the hotel and pulls it out. And he sees Bob Power’s name on the back of it. Bob Power was the engineer for The Roots. So he’s like, if he’s working on it, let me go ahead and check this out. So he said he put it in and was like, “this is fucking amazing. I need to find this guy.” And he said for the next year he searched and tried to track him down and get in touch with him. And finally he did.
Christina: Well, this was actually, he talked about this again in that interview with Nelson George, 'cause he ended up bringing up Questlove a couple of times to, to chat. So all this time, this year where he was trying to figure out how can he bump into D’Angelo again, D’Angelo was saying that he was in search of a new drummer. And he went to a Roots show. I can’t remember if he said he did it on purpose to see Questlove, but he was at a Roots show and then Questlove said when he realized the D’Angelo was there—
Miguel: He basically ruined The Roots performance, trying to impress D’Angelo.
Christina: He was like, that was basically my audition. Because D’Angelo has a specific style that he uses for his drummers. He was saying how, like, when he started trying to drum in that style, his band was looking at him like, “what are you doing?”
Miguel: Why are you messing up the cues?
Christina: And, well, obviously it worked.
Miguel: Yeah. Cause he said he saw him and Erykah Badu at wherever they were performing and he saw them in the back of the room. And that’s when he decided that he was going to throw in some Prince drum rolls, just to see if he would respond. And he said his head whipped up when he did. And he was like, “I got that motherfucker now.” And from then on, they were working together.
Christina: Kindred spirits. So the style that he calls it, they call it like a drunken drumming, basically. Which I never noticed before. And he kind of explains that it’s a looser style basically, right? And he was saying how he spent his whole career trying to be so exact and perfect. Then D’Angelo comes in and is like, no, don’t do it like that.
Christina: He’s like, people are gonna laugh at me. Like, why are you so sloppy? And it’s interesting because, you know, musicians, they just have like a different ear. As much can hear the music and we can decide what we like and don’t like, blah-blah-blah, they have a different ear. And I couldn’t really catch what he meant by this drunken drumming until I saw an interview with Questlove only. And he was mimicking the drum sounds with his mouth.
Christina: And not on an actual drum. Then when he pared it down to just that I could hear how it almost sounds like it’s off beat.
Christina: And I’m like, oh, I get it. And it kind of reminds me of that video clip, we saw Harry Connick Jr.
Miguel: When he—
Christina: Tricked his audience into—
Miguel: Had to get everybody back on beat.
Christina: Yeah. So there’s this clip of Harry Connick Jr. performing somewhere and his audience is clapping on the one and the three.
Christina: And he somehow slips in this like fifth beat to trick them into getting back to the two and the four.
Miguel: And they did and didn’t even notice.
Christina: And they did, and it it’s like a magic trick. How did he do that? And so that’s what made me think of when he was explaining this drunken drum pattern that they were doing.
Miguel: Yeah. It’s something that us regular folk wouldn’t catch until it’s pointed out. But then as soon as it’s, as it’s pointed out, it’s like, oh duh.
Christina: I think he said it took him like a month to like actually get it, like kind of unlearn some of the things he was doing before, to do the style that D’Angelo wanted for the Voodoo album.
Miguel: And then speaking of Voodoo, let’s get into it.
Christina: So this one definitely sounded more experimental than Brown Sugar. Even though Brown Sugar kind of ushered in a new sound, it was still, you know, more R&B. Whereas this one, you can hear a few more of those hip hop influences, but now you’re also hearing more like funk bluesy, Jimi Hendrix and Prince, which are, some big influences for him. And you can really hear that now. And the album very much sounds like a big jam session, which it basically was. Can you imagine how much recorded music there is that we will never hear?
Miguel: Well, from everything I’ve read or seen about it, they would just go in and do stuff all the time.
Christina: Because I think in the intro I said, and he was a one take singer, because he had mentioned that he does like to record his vocals in one take, because he likes how it just sounds natural the first time around. So it’s like how many songs are there if you’re a one-take singer?
Miguel: Which kind of goes into what we were talking about yesterday, about whether he’s a whispering bitch or not. And I said that he’s a mumbling bitch, not a whispering bitch.
Christina: Because he doesn’t enunciate sometimes.
Miguel: Yeah He’s on his SZA. Well, nah. SZA, it’s different with her.
Christina: That’s a different sound.
Miguel: But anyway, I’m thinking they’re just basically freestyling a bunch of stuff and then whatever comes out, we’re going to keep it.
Christina: Cause he’s like, when he was mentioning his one take he’s like, even if I’m mumbling, I want to keep it.
Miguel: Which makes sense if they’re just sitting in there jamming for hours. I read pieces of a Rolling Stone interview because it was behind the goddamn paywall. But Touré was saying how they would sit around and watch movies for hours. And then they would go in the studio and just start jamming and playing other people’s music. And eventually as they’re playing, it would transform into something else.
Miguel: So I’m assuming that’s how they did a lot of it. Where you start just playing a Prince song and next thing you know, you’re freestyling at the end and now the music is changing and here we are with whatever comes out.
Christina: Yeah. So this kind of felt less cohesive as a full album because it does sound like basically what we were just saying, a big jam session. So it’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that little bit of this, a little bit of that. Even them just leaving like chatter in it kinda made—I guess that’s probably what they wanted.
Miguel: Yeah. You get a lot of that on the other stuff they were working on around the time, like Common’s album and Erykah Badu’s album. There’s a lot of that feel to it as well.
Christina: Yeah. And they were all recording in the same studio right?
Christina: The, um what’s it called again?
Miguel: Electric Lady.
Christina: Yes. So they were talking about how like, people would just drop by.
Christina: Like Common and Erykah and just kind of come by and hang out.
Miguel: Yeah. And it’s something I learned during the research for this is the Soulquarians wasn’t supposed to be the entire collective. It’s only four of them. Questlove, James Poyser, J Dilla, and D’Angelo. Because they’re all Aquarius. And they were just the Soulquarians. And whoever wrote the, uh, the Vibe Magazine article, heard them saying that while they were there. And when the article came out, said that they were all the Soulquarians and they’re not. And apparently that led to some tension. And the reason why things kinda fell apart.
Christina: Hmm. Why would that lead to tensions if it’s the Vibe writer who made a mistake?
Miguel: Well, I read a excerpt from Questlove’s book and he basically said that, he wouldn’t say any names, but “rapper A” would call him and say, I don’t work for you. I’m not even an Aquarius. Why you saying that we’re all Soulquarians?
Christina: So they, there was a misunderstanding—
Christina: As to who was calling them the Soulquarians.
Miguel: Yeah. And I guess the article comes off as like Questlove is the boss and he tells everybody else what to do. And some people didn’t like that. They eventually parted ways as a collective, but we got some good music out of it. We got Voodoo. We got Mama’s Gun, and Like Water For Chocolate.
Christina: All great albums. Another thing I thought was interesting is, artists also have a way of seeing things that are different from non-artists. Because he, D’Angelo was talking about “Devil’s Pie” and he was talking about what he was trying to convey. And to him, he said “the spirit of the vocals was basically like a chain gang, like field slaves picking cotton and this what they would be singing.” That’s what he was going for.
Christina: I was like okay, I don’t know if I, I saw that, but...
Miguel: I definitely didn’t then I’m going to have to listen to it when we’re done.
Miguel: With that in mind.
Christina: Think about, cause that’s how he described it, straight from his mouth.
Christina: So Nelson George was just asking him about, playing the piano, playing guitar and all that. And he explained it as he sees the guitar and bass as the meat and potatoes the piano as coloring over top of it.
Christina: Like sure. That makes sense to you.
Miguel: Meat and potatoes and coloring. Alright.
Christina: And he’s talking about it, like, it’s so clear to him that this is how it’s seen. And I’m like, sure.
Christina: And like we saw in the documentary, like, he’s an artiste.
Christina: Just kind of wandering around humming. So it’s definitely a different view when you, I think like you’re driven by your art, which is probably why...well A, first of all, it took him a long time to even make the album, the Voodoo album, after Brown Sugar. He said he had writer’s block for a while.
Christina: When he had his first kid that kind of helped loosen up the writer’s block, but it makes sense why someone like him would take so long to just make a second album just because it’s like, things need to be right.
Christina: I need to be whatever.
Christina: Inspired and all that.
Miguel: Well, I was seeing that for the Brown Sugar album. They were touring for like two or three years and he basically didn’t get a chance to just sit still and come up with stuff. So that’s why you really end up with some writer’s block because you’re constantly working rather than creating. So I’m sure that has something to do with it as well. Just not being able to write.
Christina: So maybe he gained all that weight on tour that we didn’t see. Which is why they got him a trainer and had them running around Central Park and lifting weights and stuff.
Miguel: I’m still not buying it. Him being quote-unquote “big.” I’m not going there.
Christina: I dunno, that’s what Questlove said, and he definitely lost some weight and gained some muscle in between the time—
Christina: Because even though he was fully clothed, we could tell he didn’t look like that during the Brown Sugar days.
Christina: But I wonder if—was the record company saying, okay, he’s got this debut album, that’s making this love music. Let’s make him a sex symbol?
Miguel: I’m sure it had something to do with it.
Christina: And when he was doing it, he probably didn’t expect it to—
Miguel: Turn into—
Christina: To ruin him, basically.
Miguel: What it turned into.
Miguel: Cause I could see how it could be an issue where he is someone who was like, look at my art and then everybody’s like—
Christina: Take your shirt off!
Miguel: Yeah, take shirt off. And he’s like, no, I’m trying to give you my art right here.
Miguel: So I can see how that could cause some issues.
Christina: Yeah. Especially since, like I said, he’s very much an artist first. He’s not just like, I just like to sing and make money.
Miguel: Yeah. He’s not vibes first.
Christina: Yeah. He’s art first.
Miguel: Vibes and aesthetics first.
Christina: Oh another funny thing I found out was...so, you know, there’s that song “Chicken Grease,” right?
Christina: And I always thought why did they call it “Chicken Grease?” But Questlove said they named it after a phrase that Prince uses when he wants his guitarist to play a “ninth minor chord while playing 16th notes,” which I have no idea what that means.
Miguel: The means nothing to me.
Christina: Some kind of music, guitar thing, which Prince calls chicken grease. So that’s why they call it that song, “Chicken Grease.”
Miguel: All right. I can see it. I don’t know what it means, but—
Christina: Some kind of music thing.
Miguel: It makes sense.
Christina: So with all the different sounds and stuff you got, a Red and Meth cameo, you got some more funk, but you still have the soul. You got a cover on here. What is your favorite song?
Miguel: Oh man. I have two again and they’re polar opposites. So in this moment I’m going to choose just one and the options are “Spanish Joint” and “Devil’s Pie.” Like completely opposite ends of the spectrum. So for the purposes of this podcast, I’m going to say “Spanish Joint.”
Christina: All right.
Miguel: That’s my choice.
Christina: Well I have two as well, but for different reasons.
Christina: So my favorite song on this album is actually his version of “Feel Like Making Love.” 'Cause I hadn’t heard the Roberta Flack version before hearing this.
Christina: And I was so used to hearing it with that beat that when I heard Roberta Flack’s version, I’m like, oh, this sounds like it’s missing something. Because it’s so light, her version.
Miguel: Yeah, I can see that.
Christina: So I really love his, and it’s my favorite song off the album, because I’m more on the soul side than the funk side.
Christina: But I mean, it’s a cover. So if that kind of negates it being his song, then my favorite is “Send It On.”
Christina: The thing that I wanted to look up but I forgot, since we finally dragged our CDs out from storage, is I kept seeing when I was reading articles about this, that, what’s his name, Saul Williams?
Christina: I think he had written some stuff in the CD liner notes.
Christina: And I just kept seeing it referenced in these little articles and stuff. I’m like, I’ll just go look myself.
Miguel: And then you forgot.
Christina: Which I forgot. I have it in my notes, check the CD liner notes and I forgot. So we’re gonna have to, I don’t know, look at that later and see Saul was writing about that had everyone else writing about it.
Miguel: We’ll add some footnotes on the website.
Christina: Yeah. You know, it’s ironic that the video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” kind of led him down this spiral and neither of us picked that as our favorite song.
Christina: It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just, there are songs that I like better.
Miguel: The reason I don’t like it as much is 'cause obviously it sounds like Prince. And I want my Prince to come from Prince. So that’s why I didn’t really gravitate towards it while it was out. Like, I appreciate it more now, 20 years later than I did at the time, because it was just like, ugh, stop trying to do Prince because you’re not him.
Christina: Um, yeah, I mean, I liked the song, but yeah, there’s just other ones that I like better. No real reason in particular for me. Obviously I liked the video. But at the same time, I can’t imagine...I don’t know how to describe it. I think people expect like, okay, if you’re a man, like, why wouldn’t you want women screaming after you and stuff. But as you were saying, if he’s very much like, here’s my art. And they were saying how, like, when he was performing women and men, actually. They were just screaming at him to like, take his shirt off. But not only that, he’s saying how they would grab his crotch and stuff and like tug on him and stuff. And like, can you imagine singing while somebody is trying to touch your parts? Like male or female? That has to be jarring.
Miguel: Especially when you don’t want that attention.
Miguel: He was quote-unquote, the big boy, a couple years ago, and now he’s this chiseled Adonis and he doesn’t want to be the chiseled Adonis. He just happens to be chiseled Adonis, but that’s what the people want from him.
Christina: And a lot of times performers, even though they’re onstage and maybe they’re like, being very out there. A lot of times, they’re very much introverts at the same time.
Christina: And he seems very much like an introvert as well.
Christina: So even if he’s on stage with his shirt off, it’s gotta be weird for him have that kind of attention.
Miguel: Well, every interview I saw with him, he would always talk about the differences between D’Angelo and Michael. And a lot of times he just wants to be Michael, but everybody wants him to be D’Angelo. And that led to a lot of his issues.
Christina: So I mean, he couldn’t have known, but I wonder what he was thinking when they were like, okay, here’s the concept for this video.
Miguel: Well, it’s funny you say that. I saw something with the director and of course the song is about sex, but the video, he said, he told him to “think about your grandmother’s cooking.”
Miguel: Think about how good the greens taste and how good the fried chicken tastes.
Christina: Is that why he was sweating?
Miguel: Yeah. And how good—
Christina: He had the meat sweats.
Miguel: How good this is going to taste after church and all this, and that’s how they got him into that mindset to just have those expressions and whatnot. He was thinking about his grandmother’s cooking. And not a woman.
Christina: You know what? That makes sense.
Miguel: I get it. I completely get it. Sometimes—
Christina: I get excited about food too.
Miguel: Exactly. And after I was reading that I was like, you know what? That makes perfect sense to me. Because I instantly wanted some fried chicken. I didn’t get it.
Christina: It’s...was nice to have something for the ladies to look at for once. Obviously, you’re going to get excited. But it’s just so weird that he’s trying to sing and you’re sitting there, “take your shirt off!”
Christina: Like, understand why he would be annoyed.
Miguel: Yeah. And there was one night that a woman threw money at him.
Christina: Oh God.
Miguel: And he said, while on stage, he was yelling at her, “I’m not a stripper!”
Miguel: So that’s how bad it got.
Miguel: That you have people throwing money at him.
Christina: Do you even like him or you?
Miguel: You just like the idea of this, basically.
Christina: When I was reading one of many articles written about the video, the thing that they pointed out, which makes sense to me is, because, you know, he had the low cut pants.
Christina: But would never go too low.
Miguel: Yeah. Right.
Christina: In reality, he was just wearing some low cut sweats or something, but the way they talked about it was how it was filmed. It wasn’t lewd, it was more artistic.
Christina: And it forces you to use your imagination little bit.
Christina: Because he’s not actually doing anything.
Miguel: Right, he’s thinking about chicken.
Miguel: Chicken and peach cobbler.
Christina: And so to me, I think I understand maybe how in his mind he could have seen it more like as part of his artistic expression, right?
Miguel: Yeah. That completely makes sense.
Christina: To think of him as like a stripper and throw money at him. It’s just so weird as a fan. Like I get all of the lust that goes with it, but to take it that far to make him just like, not want to do this anymore. It’s a lot.
Miguel: Hey, they’re just lucky that it wasn’t Kevin Gates because he kicks people in the face who grab his crotch on stage.
Christina: Yeah. And obviously he must be a sensitive soul for it to kind of bother him so much that he disappeared.
Miguel: But in terms of that causing his popularity, I can see that too, because in a couple other episodes that we talked about with how hip hop was taking off in this same time period, he would have been right in that mix too, because the video was all over BET and MTV. So it was the perfect time for somebody to be in that position to take their career outta here.
Christina: You know what, I kind of take that back. Like, I can see how someone who’s maybe never really heard of him before. Someone who’s, you know, watching MTV’s TRL or something, right? And they’re seeing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
Miguel: And then this guy shows up.
Christina: Then this guy shows up and you’re like, “Ooh, who’s this hot stud?”
Christina: Who would never really listen D’Angelo who is now like, “oh yeah, I like this guy. He’s hot.”
Miguel: Yeah. So you have that, and then you have women who probably never would have looked twice at him beforehand—
Christina: Because he was a chubby boy.
Miguel: Because he was chubby boy. Now they see this.
Miguel: And then you have those girls and women and their men looking at him, like, why can’t I get some of this affection you’re giving to him?
Christina: Yeah. Now the men are mad.
Miguel: So now they’re mad, but at the same time, they’re listening to the song. It’s like, what is it about this song that they like so I can do that too. So everybody was just coming at him and I can see how that could be like, you know what? Just get away from me. Leave me alone.
Christina: I guess now that we’re kind of like talking through it, I guess it was hard for me to see that before, because like I said, I was fan from the beginning.
Christina: And I always found that he had sex appeal fully clothed. So this was just a little more.
Christina: So, yeah, it’s just, it’s just weird.
Miguel: I get it though.
Christina: But I guess that, you know, we always talk about when certain artists that are beloved in quote, “our community,” they’ll have like one hit that just goes mainstream and there’s really no rhyme or reason why it does. This one, at least we kind of know it’s because he was naked.
Miguel: Yeah. There’s a definite point that you could point to and say, this is the reason. Because it’s not like he was some struggling artist before that.
Christina: No, because already, like with the first album, people were already like, oh, he’s the one.
Christina: Then you have the pressure of that too.
Miguel: Yeah. That doesn’t help.
Christina: Being the chosen one.
Miguel: So yeah, I can see it.
Christina: Well, before he disappeared, he did some collabs. There was “Be Here” with Raphael Saadiq. Did you watch the video for this by any chance?
Miguel: I did. I forgot that I did.
Christina: Did you notice—
Miguel: Because I like this song.
Christina: Okay. Did you notice who Raphael’s love interest was?
Miguel: I didn’t.
Christina: It’s Jada from The Chi, Emmet’s mama.
Miguel: Oh, yeah.
Christina: As soon as she came sauntering out that car, I was like, I know this face.
Miguel: I didn’t even catch that.
Christina: Before she was playing people’s mama, she was a hot mama.
Miguel: Yes. 15, 20 years ago. Yeah, that’s one of my favorite songs of Raphael’s. Now that’s going to be stuck in my head.
Christina: Yeah. I really liked that song too. Yeah. I mean he did some collabs and stuff in between Brown Sugar and Voodoo as well.
Miguel: There’s the GZA remix. Yeah.
Miguel: I knew you would be all over that.
Christina: Uh huh. And I loved, “I Found My Smile Again” from the Space Jam soundtrack. So the Space Jam album version is not available for streaming, but luckily for us, we got CDs sitting over there. But there is like a radio version that is available for streaming, but it sounds slightly different.
Miguel: Yeah, that’s the one I listened to.
Christina: Yeah. It’s a little, it sounds a little bit different. The Space Jam version is actually on YouTube. And then of course he did a song with Erykah for the High School High soundtrack, “Your Precious Love.” He did a Prince cover, “She’s Always In My Hair.”
Miguel: I like Prince’s version better.
Christina: I like Prince’s version better too, which is, normally it would be surprising because you would think I would pick D’Angelo, but because he went for a very guitar centric sound on this and I’m not really rock.
Christina: Into the rock-y vibe. It’s not bad, but I do like Prince’s version better.
Miguel: I just like it better cause it’s Prince.
Christina: Of course. He has a song with Lauryn Hill. He sang the hook for Method Man. So I think between the first two albums, it didn’t seem that long of a hiatus because—
Miguel: Yeah, because he was popping up here and there.
Christina: Right. But yeah, after Voodoo, he was just gone.
Miguel: Yeah. Like where is this dude?
Christina: And again, this is before social media and stuff, so we didn’t really have any ways of keeping tabs on him.
Christina: Until he would pop up for stuff.
Miguel: Yeah. It’s always something negative at that point. It was two things. It would be something negative or someone saying that he’s got new music coming.
Christina: Yes, teasing us.
Miguel: Yeah It was like, oh, the album will be out in six months. And then two years later there’s nothing.
Christina: Yeah. So he disappeared basically. And then you told me, guess who’s coming to Made in America? This is 2012 by now. And I was like, we’re going. I don’t care who else is in this festival lineup because I’m generally not good with festivals because my musical interest is just not wide enough. I was like, if D’Angelo is going to be there, I’m going to be there.
Miguel: Even with that before the Made in America announcement was made, there was talk about him actually going back out on the road. And after 10, 11 years of that I was like, all right, yeah right. Well, we’ll believe it when we see it. And then he actually showed up and performed somewhere, somewhere in Europe.
Miguel: It was like, oh shit, it’s actually happening. And then of course, some footage leaks to Twitter. And it’s like, oh, he’s actually doing it this time.
Christina: He’s back.
Miguel: Yeah. So then they did the European tour and that’s when they made the announcement about Made in America. And of course I’m like, you’re going to be all in on it.
Christina: Uh, yeah. I’m gonna go to this two day festival for a one-hour performance.
Miguel: Not me. I was there to see other people.
Christina: Well, I figured there’d be somebody else we’d want to see too.
Christina: But I mean, that was the driving force for me. Was this the first year or second year?
Miguel: This was the first year.
Christina: Oh yeah, because I remember we had to stay in that same spot cause we had to wait for Jay-Z to come.
Miguel: Yeah that was the first year.
Miguel: It was a good lineup, I thought.
Christina: I don’t even remember now. I just remember him and Jay-Z.
Miguel: Yeah, I have it here in front of me.
Christina: I think I wanted to see Miguel, but we couldn’t leave the spot.
Miguel: Yeah. We could hear him, but we couldn’t see him. Like we could see the video screen at the other stage, but we couldn’t see him.
Christina: Because if we had left where we were, we wouldn’t have been able to make it back, 'cause we were fairly close to the stage.
Miguel: Yeah. We had a pretty good spot at the stage at that point. Yeah, it was Jay-Z. Drake performed that day. Well, he performed the next day.
Christina: And we went back to the hotel. We watched him for a little bit.
Miguel: Yeah we watched a little bit.
Christina: And then—
Miguel: And then went back to the hotel. Now, mind you, this is not Drake of today. This is Drake in 2012. So he was still on the way up.
Christina: But big enough to headline the second night though.
Miguel: No he wasn’t.
Christina: I thought he was the headliner.
Miguel: Nope, Pearl Jam was the headliner.
Christina: Right. He was just before Pearl Jam. Okay. So he was the lead up to the headliner.
Miguel: Yeah. So day one was Jay-Z, who we enjoyed. We didn’t enjoy Calvin Harris too much, because he’s a white guy pretending to be Black with his name.
Christina: I probably, he probably would’ve played that one Rihanna song.
Miguel: I don’t even remember.
Christina: Was it “We Found Love?” Now I can’t remember. One of her dance songs was with him.
Miguel: I don’t remember anything about his performance. For some reason I remember Passion Pit. I had never heard of Passion Pit before that day.
Christina: Is that an artist?
Christina: I don’t know who that is. I don’t even remember.
Miguel: And I don’t know who they are still to this day. I just remember the name was Passion Pit.
Christina: I completely forgot.
Miguel: Gary Clark was good that day.
Christina: Yeah. I like him. He’s not usually my style, but I like him. He’s a good artist.
Miguel: Yeah. Janelle Monae, Rick Ross. When we first got there, he was performing.
Christina: Yes, I remember that.
Miguel: And then D’Angelo was pretty much all we wanted to see the first day. And then day two, we got to see—
Christina: And Jay-Z.
Miguel: Yeah. We got to see Run-DMC.
Miguel: Jill Scott. We could hear Odd Future from the other stage, but at the time I didn’t want to hear them either because they were a little too wild for me at that point. But now I’m all over Tyler, The Creator. So it’s a bit of a switch. We saw Solange.
Christina: Yes. That was fun.
Miguel: We heard Rita Ora.
Christina: I don’t remember even hearing Rita Ora.
Miguel: I do. But seeing D’Angelo was good for me because I had never seen him live before. The only performances I had seen is like on award shows something like that.
Christina: Yeah, same.
Miguel: Where he’s performing one or two songs.
Christina: This was before Black Messiah.
Miguel: Yeah. This was two years before.
Christina: So, and we hadn’t even really heard much from him in years, so I didn’t know what to expect. But this definitely gave us a peek into what Black Messiah was going to be.
Christina: I’m sure he was already working on it. Oh yeah, he played a couple songs that ended up being released on the album.
Miguel: Right, there were like, two or three.
Christina: So this kind of reminded me of like, remember when we saw Prince back in… When did we see Prince? 2018?
Miguel: No, it was before that, because I think he passed in 2016.
Christina: Oh, has it been that long already?
Miguel: Something like that. But when we saw him, it was the last time he had come to Toronto.
Christina: Right. It kind of reminded me of that performance because I was unfamiliar with this version of D’Angelo. Even though he did play some songs from Voodoo, it was much more of that like funk, Jimi Hendrix—
Miguel: It wasn’t the album versions of it.
Christina: Yeah. And he didn’t play anything from Brown Sugar.
Christina: And I’m sure he reluctantly played “Untitled.”
Miguel: Well I saw that he doesn’t perform it at every show.
Christina: Okay. 'Cause he didn’t look reluctant, but I’m sure he’s like, I gotta give the people something.
Miguel: Yeah, and I remember him doing this when we were there, like they cleared the band off and then he came out and started playing it on piano by himself. And he was just playing the intro and then he got up, like he was about to walk off, and just stood in the front of the stage though, and just let the crowd cheer. And then he went back to playing. Apparently that’s just his thing.
Miguel: He uh, he just pretends—
Christina: He’s just messing with us.
Miguel: That he’s not going to play it. And he’s like, all right, I’ll play it.
Christina: I was rewatching the Made in America performance since it’s uploaded somewhere.
Miguel: Me Too. I was trying to find us in the crowd.
Christina: I was too, but I was looking in the wrong area. But all he did was he played that one note and a bunch of people started screaming.
Miguel: 'Cause they knew what it was.
Christina: Yep. But this performance was more “Chicken Grease” and less “Lady.”
Christina: But because of his talent and his musicality, I guess, I can still... there’s something about watching a live performance that when they’re great performers, you just enjoy it. Even if you don’t know—
Christina: The songs.
Miguel: Because the song that he opens with, I had no idea what that song was until today.
Christina: Yeah, same.
Miguel: Because I had to look it up.
Christina: Uh huh.
Miguel: It’s a Canadian band called Motherlode and that’s their only hit. And this is what he opened his set with.
Christina: I didn’t even know that until right now.
Miguel: I had no clue. I just assumed it was a song of his.
Miguel: But I looked it up cause I have not found him performing this song anywhere else.
Miguel: And come to find out it’s just a cover that he was doing.
Christina: Yeah. So overall I enjoyed it. Of course I would have liked to hear stuff from Brown Sugar, but at this point it’s like, he’s here, I’m here.
Miguel: That’s all I was concerned with.
Christina: Yeah. And it’s just like what I was saying about the Prince concert. 'Cause I mostly know like more old Prince.
Christina: But when he starts to do the newer stuff, I had never heard any of that stuff before but I was still just like, this is amazing.
Christina: When you’re there and you’re watching them perform and you could see how talented they are, you just, you can’t help but kind of be swept up in it. So as much as I would have liked to hear some of the old stuff I wasn’t disappointed with the performance.
Miguel: Yeah, and it was just taking a little bit of time because we didn’t know the songs. Like when he did “The Charade,” I’m like, “Do I like this? I don’t know if I like this.” Then after about a minute, it’s like, “I like this.” It just took a while to, to catch on because you didn’t know the song and hearing it for the first time in that kind of environment is weird, because you don’t get to hear it. Because there’s people screaming and yelling, so you missing a lot, but I ended up liking it and that’s one of my favorites on the album.
Christina: Me too. It’s not my favorite—
Miguel: Me neither.
Christina: But it’s one of my favorites.
Miguel: But it’s one of the favorites.
Christina: So, let’s just go right into Black Messiah, 2014. A whole 14 years after Voodoo. Which is, a hard task to come back after basically being gone for that long.
Christina: And knowing that people have so much expectations for you. And actually delivering.
Miguel: And what’s funny is I didn’t remember this, but it was one of those albums that just dropped with no promotion.
Christina: Yeah. I didn’t remember that either.
Miguel: Because it was supposed to be out a few months later.
Christina: I think because we kept hearing that it was coming. That’s probably why I forgot that it was kind of a sneak drop, but this one was definitely a more evolved version of him. More confident and had political undertones or overtones. And definitely more like rock and guitars and stuff.
Miguel: Yeah. This one is more Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic. That type of quote-unquote R&B where it’s more guitar driven, heavier drums. Although there are a couple on there that kind of fit into a jazzy type realm, but that’s pretty much what this is. Like a psychedelic rock album.
I remember seeing “The Charade,” like I said, back at the Made in America festival, and I remember, like I said, “Do I like it? Do I not like it? I like this.” And when it was on the album, like, yes, he throw didn’t just throw it away. I get to hear that song that I was trying to get into back at the concert. So I was glad that one actually made the album.
Christina: The one that I was glad that actually made the album was “Really Love” because Questlove had leaked it a million years before.
Christina: And it was just this horrible little snippet, but I had downloaded it from somewhere. Probably Kazaa-ed it. And I would listen to it all the time, just hoping and waiting. And so when I saw that was on the album, I’m like, “Yes, I finally got it!”
Miguel: Him leaking that led to them beefing for a little bit too.
Christina: Uh, they got back to it though.
Miguel: Yeah, they’re good now.
Christina: So “Really Love,” I think I would have to say that one was my favorite song, just because I’ve been waiting for it.
Christina: But “Ain’t That Easy” is also a close second.
Miguel: Okay. My favorite one on this album is “Betray My Heart.”
Christina: Okay. For me, this is kind of similar to the Made in America performance where I’m not disappointed by it, but it’s not my favorite album overall, just because it’s less of what I listen to. Like you were saying, it’s more of the sort of Sly and Family Stone and I don’t, I don’t really go that far into the funk. I prefer samples.
Miguel: Well for me, it’s the complete opposite. This is my favorite D’Angelo album of the three.
Christina: It’s hard for me to pick between the first two, because I think I like Brown Sugar best overall as in every single song I like.
Christina: But the songs that I like on Voodoo, I reeeally like.
Christina: So it’s hard for me to pick between those two, but it’s definitely not this one because this one is the least my style. It doesn’t sound like, “Oh, what is he doing?” Like, we’ve already seen him going into this direction.
Christina: And it’s not like, “Ugh, I don’t like him anymore.” It’s just less on there of stuff that I would like.
Miguel: Yeah. For me, it’s like you said, the transition into it, and this is where it was perfected. Like you can see hints of it on the first two albums, but this is where it all came together.
Christina: Right. So despite it coming out so long after Voodoo, it’s not a shock. It doesn’t sound weird. It still sounds like him, but it just sounds like him deeper into what he was trying to do before.
Miguel: And it would be really weird for him to come out 14, 15 years later and then—
Christina: Singing “Lady.”
Miguel: No, not only that, but throwing on random rappers that used to be out around the same time as him, because they’re not around anymore. And what are we going to do? Put Lil’ Uzi Vert.
Christina: He can put Red and Meth on it again.
Miguel: We could.
Christina: They still around.
Miguel: We could, but were they making mov— were they making albums at that time? They were doing TV and movies.
Christina: I don’t know.
Miguel: So it’s like the people, his contemporaries really weren’t there. So you can’t really throw on Q-Tip on a verse because he’s not doing music right now. But hey, that’s just me.
Christina: I think he just didn’t want to.
Miguel: But at the same time, Tribe Called Quest did have an album come out around the same time as this.
Christina: There you go.
Miguel: So they could have.
Christina: They could have.
Miguel: But I’m glad they didn’t. Let’s keep those separate for now.
Christina: Okay. He did show up on a Rapsody song, to the “Liquid Swords” sample with the GZA. I can’t remember, I didn’t look at what year that came out but.
Miguel: That was last year.
Christina: I know it was recent.
Miguel: Yeah. I think it was last year because she did an album and each song title is a woman that she admires. Even though the song doesn’t have anything to do with that particular woman, they’re just named about, different women that she admires. And can’t pronounce the woman’s name.
Christina: I looked it up, but I’m still not convinced that I’m pronouncing it right.
Miguel: I know who she is. She’s a fencer and she won a medal in the Olympics. I just can’t pronounce her name. And, and I’m I’m not going to try and butcher it right now.
Christina: We could spell it. I-B-T-I-H-A-J.
Miguel: Yeah, so I’m not going to butcher it. I’m not going to offend anybody who has this name. But y’all know what it is.
Christina: He wasn’t in the video.
Christina: I was hoping he’d show up, but he didn’t.
Miguel: He didn’t, but Mary J. Blige did though!
Christina: She did. And Roxanne Shante.
Christina: And of course well, the GZA, since he was on the song.
Christina: But I was like, of course, Mary J. Blige just loves showing up in, in videos. I’m not surprised.
Miguel: That’s what she does.
Christina: But the video’s creative director, one of her besties, Misa Hylton.
Miguel: Okay, well there you go.
Christina: Now we know that makes even more sense why Mary J. would just be randomly dancing in the—
Miguel: Just dancing in the background.
Christina: All in the video.
Miguel: Not saying anything. I’m not surprised at that.
Miguel: Another song that he had come out in 2019 was “Unshaken.” And this is probably the most random song that he’s ever done because of a person who has a random career like D’Angelo, this is the highest of random. It’s a song on Red Dead Redemption II.
Miguel: Which is a video game. Why?
Christina: I found an article—
Miguel: I know why.
Christina: Oh okay.
Miguel: But my question is, “Why?” Why is he singing?
Christina: And it’s like a, almost like a country song.
Miguel: Yeah, it’s, it’s a song, that you would hear if you’re watching a Western.
Miguel: And here he is singing “Unshaken.” I’m like, come on of all places for you to pop up with new music, Red Dead Redemption II.
Christina: A video game.
Miguel: Yeah. I haven’t gotten to the point of the game where the song pops up. So when it happens, I’ll let you know, because it plays the entire song apparently. Through a montage. So I will let you know. But you can tell the story of how he ended up on the soundtrack.
Christina: So I found this article that said that he’s just a fan of the video game and got in touch with them to play the game, the version two. And then it just kind of manifested into “You want to do a song?”
Miguel: Cause the uh...
Christina: I’m like, why would you have to get in touch with them to play the game? Why don’t you just wait for the game to come out?
Miguel: He loved it that much.
Christina: That he was just like, let me see if I can just go to them directly and just play the game.
Miguel: And they said they would let him come down to the studio and he would play it from like midnight to like five in the morning, for days. And finally, they were like, “Hey, you want to be on the soundtrack?”
Christina: Okay. Yeah. Originally it was supposed to just be in the game, but they decided to actually release it as a single.
Miguel: Yeah. And like I said, I haven’t finished the game yet, but know where it’s supposed to happen. So I will let you know.
Miguel: They play it twice.
Christina: So, that’s pretty much his career in a nutshell.
Miguel: Yeah. In terms of the music.
Christina: And it’s kind of crazy when you think about it, that he has so much impact based off the first two albums basically.
Christina: Cause usually people who have this much, I guess impact... have like lots of albums. I mean, three is still pretty good. Like a lot of people don’t make it to two.
Miguel: Yeah, exactly.
Christina: Again, this was all based off of the first two albums but I guess when the talent is there, you don’t have to just be pushing stuff out all the time.
Christina: People will just wait for it.
Miguel: We want it a little quicker than 15 years, but when we get it, we’re happy with it.
Christina: But he did pop up with a Verzuz.
Miguel: That was supposed to be him and Maxwell, but something happened with Maxwell, according to the Swizz Beatz. He wouldn’t say what it was, but he bailed. D’Angelo was like, “I’m ready to go.” They said, you know what, since you’re ready, we’re still going to put this show on and it became—
Christina: D’Angelo and friends.
Miguel: D’Angelo and friends. It would have been better if there was more crowd participation. It just seemed really dead. Just because it was him and DJ Scratch basically.
Christina: Well, I think at this time—you know how the later Verzuz, they were actually like concerts basically.
Christina: But I think at this time they were still keeping it very only, um...
Miguel: Only the performers.
Christina: Yeah. Basically like if you don’t need to be here then you don’t have—
Miguel: You can’t be here.
Christina: Then you can’t be here.
Miguel: It was good to see him.
Christina: It was, but given the circumstances.
Miguel: I would rather it be in front of a crowd.
Christina: But this is pandemic times.
Christina: We don’t want him to get sick.
Miguel: No, we don’t want that. But I would like to have seen like some crowd response.
Christina: I found this stream online and I was kind of rewatching some of it. And I think my favorite part was that he played “Shook Ones” and made it go into “Feel Like Making Love.” I’m like, that’s like D’Angelo that I like.
Miguel: I’m gonna have to go back and watch that.
Christina: I have a timestamp.
Christina: And I think he played, um, I can’t remember if it was “The World is Yours”, but he played a Nas song as well. And I was like, this is the kind of like, fusion of R&B and hip hop and whatever that I like. But yeah, it was definitely the Mobb Deep going into “Feel Like Making Love.” I’m like, all right.
Miguel: That’s a win-win for you. So outside of the, Verzuz if you have a Sonos speaker system, there is a station called Feverish Fantasmagoria. I don’t know what that means. But he is the curator of that station. For whatever reason it’s not available here in Canada, but it’s available in the US and other countries. So I heard the first DJ mix that he put together himself. It was pretty good. It’s basically all of the people that influenced him. So I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to listen to it.
Christina: Not yet.
Miguel: You might not like it because it has a lot of that psychedelic rock, but then he also throws in some De La Soul too.
Miguel: It’s basically D’Angelo.
Christina: Cafe background music station?
Miguel: Yeah. And we listened to Erykah’s station that she curated. It’s all over the place. So I’d assume that his is probably the same way.
Christina: I would imagine. I feel like have a lot of crossover in terms of influences.
Miguel: Yeah So, like I said, if you do have a Sonos speaker system, go ahead and check that out.
Miguel: And also if you can get a chance to see it, it’s kind of hard to find these days, but there is a documentary that came out in 2019, called Devil’s Pie. Someone just basically trailed him for a couple of years and documented his comeback and up to just about before the album came out. So if you want to check that out, if you can go ahead with that too.
Christina: Yeah. Since right now it only seems to be available like special screenings and festivals and stuff, right?
Miguel: Yeah. We got lucky enough to see it.
Miguel: It was at the Hot Docs festival here in Toronto, but I didn’t realize that it had only been on the festival circuit since then. But if you get a chance, check it out. You got anything else you want to add?
Christina: Just go on YouTube, put his name in and just look at all these live performances and you’ll see different renditions of the songs you know and love.
Christina: Like that interesting version of “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” that he played at a jazz festival.
Miguel: At the Montreux jazz festival. It’s like, okay, this is how you’re gonna open the show?
Christina: He was going in. He was going in. And then there’s the performance with Questlove.
Miguel: At Brooklyn Bowl.
Christina: The one song I saw from that performance was “Tell Me If You Still Care” by the SOS Band. So there’s just so much stuff, even though he’s been, he was gone for a while. He’s done a lot of performances.
Miguel: Yeah, So we’ll put links to everything on the website, so you can check out the performances and all that good stuff. So you can see what we’ve been talking about.
Christina: I thought this was going to be a short episode since he only has three albums.
Christina: I guess we can just gush about him forever.
Miguel: Yeah, because he’s one of my favorites. He’s obviously one of your favorites.
Miguel: We thought this was going to be a 30 minute episode, but we are wrong.
Christina: But we are going to wrap up now.
Miguel: We are. On that note. Thank you again for listening to They Reminisce Over You. We appreciate everybody who’s continuing to listen and come back. Our numbers are going up. Shout out to our people in Zimbabwe. I’m going to shout out a different country every time we do this from now.
Miguel: So my people in Zimbabwe, this is for you. Make sure to check us out on Twitter and Instagram and follow us on both, if you’re not already doing so. Go to the website, check out the transcripts, see the links that we’re talking about for the references in this episode.
Christina: Or read the transcript because sometimes we crosstalk and mumble and all that.
Miguel: So if you need to check it out that way, feel free. We’re also putting together a playlist so you can check that out on Spotify. We’ll link to it on the website. And also you can listen to the Music + Talk Edition on Spotify as well if you want to hear with an embedded playlist.
Christina: So it’ll be a little bit of talking, a little bit of songs.
Miguel: Yeah so check that out too. Anything else you want to say to the people?
Christina: Let the man live! And keep his shirt on.
Miguel: Let the man keep his shirt on in 2022. We will see you guys or talk to you guys again in two weeks. Bye!