Modern soul genius D’Angelo hadn’t released an album for 14 years until the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Now, inspired by the huge resistance to racism in the US, the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, he’s back with a sound that is altogether darker and more menacing.
The once sweet vocals that defined his killer album, Brown Sugar, are now somehow twisted, overdubbed, and interspersed with heavy funk distortion.
The influence of psychedelic soulsters Sly and the Family Stone and the deranged visions of George Cinton’s Funkadelic form much of the background to tracks on the album such as Ain’t That Easy and 1,000 Deaths. And, listen hard to The Charade and you’ll catch references to the Civil Rights era and the Black Power movement.
But you’ll also hear the sound of a man tortured by a world in which so many black men are being rendered in chalk outlines after an encounter with the police.
“All we wanted was a chance to talk, ’stead we only got outlined in chalk/Feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked, revealing at the end of the day, the charade,” D’Angelo sings.
Black Messiah. D’Angelo and the Vanguard. RCA Record. Out now