2014 has been a good year for sneak albums, but R&B master D’Angelo may have taken the cake by releasing Black Messiah over the course of a weekend. The album, which is his first in fourteen years, is a tremendous return that pushes his art forward while keeping true to his voice.
D’Angelo took a more serious approach for Black Messiah with many politically charged tracks. It was slated for a 2015 release, but recent tensions in the United States led the singer to push its release up. “Black Messiah is a hell of a name for an album,” he poignantly notes in the liner. “It can be easily misunderstood. Many will think it’s about religion. Some will ump to the conclusion that I’m calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It’s the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decided to make change happen. Not every song on this album is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album Black Messiah creates a landscape where those songs can live to the fullest.”
Its boundary pushing lyrical content is matched in full by its musical content. Sometimes dark and sometimes uplifting, the album is full of wonderfully thick textures tied together with bouncing grooves. D’Angelo gathered a crack team of musicians to help fill the album out, including vocalist Kendra Foster, drummers Questlove and James Gadson, and bass legend Pino Palladino. Palladino, who was also on D’Angelo’s Grammy award winning Voodoo, shares bass duties with D’Angelo throughout the album. He’s also credited with co-writing the music on the single “Sugah Daddy.”