The son and grandson of Pentecostal preacher men, D’Angelo was raised up
on church music. His first professional music contract was a publishing
deal. And his first work of note was the anthem “U Will Know” - written
for the movie Jason’s Lyric, sung by an all-star group under the
moniker B.M.U. (Black Men United), and featuring Gerald Levert, Brian
McKnight, Aaron Hall and Stokley of Mint Condition, among a sea of many
more soul men.
However, once D’Angelo began recording his own music, he deftly integrated defiant slabs of hip hop attitude, collaborating with DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest on his debut “Brown Sugar,” rappers Redman and Method Man on “Left & Right,” and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson - leader/drummer of The Roots - a heavy presence on D’s sophomore Voodoo sessions. Perhaps most potent of anything in his canon is “Devil’s Pie,” a scathing yet swinging rundown on runaway hedonism - produced by DJ Premier of Gang Starr, introduced in the urban flick, Belly, and a worthy successor to the soundtrack classics of Curtis Mayfield.
Also of note were D’Angelo’s obvious homage to the sensual vocal layering of Marvin Gaye, the falsetto flights of Prince, and the bulls-eye of Al Green’s unfettered soul. Then there were his lyrical gifts, such as the sticky-icky/sexy-sexy double-entendres of “Brown Sugar” and the more literally lovely “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine.