It seems the new trend for artists is to drop your new album out of the blue with little to no prior promotion. D’Angelo as of now is the reigning king of this tactic, he surpasses Kid Cudi, Jay-Z, and even Beyonce with the sudden miraculous unannounced arrival of his 3rd studio album 15 years later! That really is out of the blue. The wait was so long a portion of fans had actually given up. But ‘Black Messiah’ returns in true messianic form, like “a thief in the night” . Long time collaborator and semi musical overseer ?uestlove stated in many a interview before the album’s release that this album would be “this generation’s ‘There’s A Riot Going On'” and much like Sly Stone D’Angelo is working on his own time. Perhaps D’Angelo is working beyond time actually, as ‘Black Messiah’ could very well have come out at the same time as ‘There’s A Riot Going On’, both records share that timeless quality. Both also speak, quite ironically, poignantly about present society and current events. But ‘Messiah’ has more in common with the idea of a Messiah than just it’s timeless feel and sudden appearance, the album literally speaks to your soul and connects emotionally to the listener by bypassing the need for audible lyrics for a good portion of the tracks.
‘1000 Deaths’ delivers a dangerous and decisive message even if the lyrics are almost completely fogged. Immediately after ‘Charade’ continues the social commentary, eerily fitting right into today’s current news cycles, certainly sad as this album has been in the works for over a decade, this is one place where timeless subject matter is not a plus. The fearlessly funky ‘Sugah Daddy’ follows next, here D’Angelo lays down some grown game and once deciphered some of the lyrics may catch the listener off guard. Then we have ‘ Really Love’ which concludes Side A and is a good combination of D’s vintage sound with a touch of his new musical direction layered on top. Something to wet the whistle of the Neo Soul era fan’s who may not be accustomed to hard distorted guitar riffs and just as distorted lyrics.
One of D’Angelo’s strong suites is his ability to twist, bend and alter his voice to fit any musical landscape, but an even more valuable asset is his ability to create such authentic landscapes to play in. ‘Prayer’ is grim, gritty and grimy, the most ‘Riot’ like track on the album an uplifting tune only in title. D sings he “believes some day we will rise” but if the drums are any indication of our journey it is going to be a loose, misguided, bumpy ride. ‘Betray My Heart’ is another heartfelt tune with a message and backing track that perfectly mesh. Side B ends with ‘Another Life’ the release at the end and the second and final spoonful of sugar for those stuck in the Neo Soul era, a great track where we finally hear D’Angelo back on his original instrument of choice, the keys.
All and all D’Angelo and The Vanguard (his new backing band, the first to be credited on an album with him) manage to release a timeless album in an era and climate that seems to really only be focused on the now. It’s safe to say that this record will stand the test of time for as in some ways it already has.