The man hadn’t released an album in years, he was nowhere to be found. Of course, this isn’t literally true. D’Angelo was going through some things, to say the least, and was getting his life together, following his worldwide tour in support of Voodoo. His first two albums were and are classics. So it is really no surprise that his return, with the Vanguard, in 2014 with Black Messiah would yield the same critical acclaim.
The album encompasses almost all of Black music. Funk, jazz, rock, R&B, soul, hip-hop, gospel as well as the blues. It came in at the right time in 2014, after an exhausting year of police brutality and injustice to the Black community. The title was appropriate. As well as the fact that it quickly became the soundtrack to the Black Lives Matter movement, with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly following directly after that.
After the protests in Ferguson, D’Angelo realized he had to protest in his own way.
“I was like, ‘Man, I gotta f***ing contribute. I gotta participate,'” he said at the time, in an interview with Rolling Stone. “And I’m done trying to be a perfectionist about it.”
There is a current renaissance of Black art going on, if you haven’t been paying attention. Its reach extends beyond just music, embodying television, movies, novels and more. But music is always an important foundation, and has been for Black people for so many decades. This album was a piece of art that helped pull us onto the path we’re currently on. For that reason, it should always be remembered.
D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s Black Messiah was a step in a different direction, sonically as well as the overall approach to the making of the album. I’ve written about it on here before, so you can look at that review. Do you think there were other albums like this that came before December of 2014? I wasn’t able to think of any. Not any that had an impact like this one did.
This is also an album that I will forever associate with Christmas, December, winter. Can’t help it, it’s always going to have that feel to me. Which I like. There’s nothing that sounds better than listening to this album next to a warm fireplace, while it’s raining outside.