D'Angelo

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D'Angelo
D'Angelo Pori Jazz 2012.JPG
D'Angelo performing at Pori Jazz festival in Pori, Finland, 2012
Background information
Birth name Michael Eugene Archer
Born (1974-02-11) February 11, 1974 (age 40)
Origin Richmond, Virginia, United States
Genres R&B, neo soul, funk, soul, jazz fusion
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, keyboardist, producer
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboard, Hammond organ, drums, bass, Rhodes piano, guitar
Years active 1991–present
Labels EMI, Virgin, J, RCA
Associated acts Soulquarians, Questlove, Raphael Saadiq, Roy Hargrove, Common, J Dilla, De La Soul, Q-Tip

Michael Eugene Archer[1][2][3] (born February 11, 1974), better known by his stage name D'Angelo (pronounced dee-Angelo), is an American R&B and neo soul singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. He is known for his production and songwriting talents as much as for his vocal abilities, and often draws comparisons to his influences, Marvin Gaye, and Prince.

D'Angelo was one of the most influential artists during the rise of the neo soul movement.

Early life[edit]

D'Angelo was born Michael Eugene Archer, in Richmond, Virginia on February 11, 1974, to a Pentecostal preacher father. He was raised in an entirely Pentecostal family. Strict, they forbade interaction with other church members. His time deep within Pentecostalism left Archer with several notable memories, including seeing his 9-year-old-brother receive the Holy Ghost. He would later recall one of his memories as a 12-year-old:

Archer's musical talents were discovered very early on. At 3, he was spotted by his 10-year-old brother Luther, playing the house piano.

Career[edit]

1991–1995: Career beginnings and Brown Sugar[edit]

Following the formation of his native-Richmond, Virginia musical group, Michael Archer and Precise, and its success on the Amateur Night competition at Harlem, New York's Apollo Theater in 1991, eighteen-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael D'Angelo Archer dropped out of school and moved to New York City,[6] as an attempt to develop his music career.[7] The group previously enjoyed some notice in Richmond, evenly dividing their repertoire between soul covers and originals, while D'Angelo accumulated compositions of his own and developed his songwriting skills.[6] The group's turnout on Amateur Night resulted in three consecutive wins and cash prize,[8] after which, upon returning home to Richmond, D'Angelo was inspired to produce an album and began composing material.[9] After a brief tenure as a member of the hip hop group I.D.U. (Intelligent, Deadly but Unique),[10] D'Angelo signed a publishing deal with EMI Music in 1991 after catching the attention of record executives through a demo tape, which was originally by the group.[11][12] After an impressive audition for EMI execs, a three-hour impromptu piano recital,[8] D'Angelo was signed to a recording contract in 1993.[6] A&R-man Gary Harris was primarily responsible for his signing,[13] while manager Kedar Massenburg helped negotiate the contract as well.[14] Massenburg became D'Angelo's manager after hearing of him through "the buzz on the streets".[14] He had previously managed hip hop group Stetsasonic and formed the artist management-firm Kedar Entertainment in 1991, which he diversified into production, music publishing and publicity.[14]

In 1994, his first significant success came in the form of the hit single "U Will Know".[11] D'Angelo co-wrote and co-produced the song for the all-male R&B supergroup Black Men United, which featured R&B singers such as Brian McKnight, Usher, R. Kelly, Boyz II Men, Raphael Saadiq and Gerald Levert.[15] D'Angelo composed the music for "U Will Know", while his brother, Luther Archer, wrote the lyrics.[16] Originally featured on the soundtrack to the film Jason's Lyric (1994), the single peaked at number 5 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.[17] The music video for "U Will Know" featured D'Angelo as the group's choir director; he reprised the role for the live performance of the song at the Soul Train Music Awards.[15] That same year, he wrote and produced the song "Overjoyed" for the Boys Choir of Harlem,[18] which appeared on their studio album The Sound of Hope (1994).[19] The success of "U Will Know" helped build the buzz surrounding D'Angelo, which was followed by a number of highly promoted showcases, and added to the buzz among music industry insiders.[15]

Brown Sugar was released in June 1995. Although sales were sluggish at first, the album was eventually a hit. The album debuted at number six on the US Billboard Top R&B Albums chart in the week of July 22, 1995.[20] It ultimately peaked at number four in the week of February 24, 1996,[21] and spent a total of 54 weeks on the chart.[22] Brown Sugar also spent 65 weeks on the Billboard 200 and peaked at number 22 on the chart.[23] It sold 300,000 copies within its two months of release.[24] The album had been selling 35,000 to 40,000 copies a week through to November 1995,[25] and by January 1996, it had sold 400,000 copies.[26] With the help of its four singles, including the gold-selling Hot 100 hit "Lady" and R&B top-ten singles "Brown Sugar" and "Cruisin'",[27] the album reached sales of 500,000 copies in the United States by October 1995.[25][28] On February 7, 1996, it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, following shipments in excess of one million copies in the U.S.[28] The album was certified gold in Canada on May 9, 2000.[29] Its total sales have been estimated within the range of 1.5 million to over two million copies.[11][30][31][32][33][34]

The album helped give commercial visibility to the burgeoning neo-soul movement of the 1990s, along with debut albums by Maxwell, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill. The album was a critical success as well and appeared on many critics' best-of lists that year.

1996–2000: Sabbatical period and Voodoo[edit]

Following the success of his debut album Brown Sugar (1995), D'Angelo went into a four and a half year absence from the music scene and releasing solo work.[35]

His recordings for soundtracks included Belly ("Devil's Pie"), and he frequently sang covers such as "Girl, You Need a Change of Mind" (Eddie Kendricks, Get on the Bus), "She's Always in My Hair" (Prince, Scream 2) and "Heaven Must be Like This" (the Ohio Players, Down in the Delta), as well as appearing on Lauryn Hill's landmark The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on the duet "Nothing Even Matters."

The much-delayed follow-up to Brown Sugar, Voodoo, was finally released in 2000 on Virgin Records after the EMI Records Group was absorbed by the former label. Voodoo received rave reviews from contemporary music critics.[36] who dubbed it a "masterpiece" and D'Angelo's greatest work.[37][38][39][40] The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart,[41] selling 320,000 copies in its first week.[42] It entered the Billboard 200 on February 12, 2000 and remained on the chart for 33 consecutive weeks.[43] As of 2005, the album has sold over 1.7 million copies in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[44] In 2001, Voodoo won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album at the 43rd Grammy Awards, which was awarded to D'Angelo and recording engineer Russell Elevado.[45]

Its first two singles, "Devil's Pie" and "Left & Right", peaked at number 69 and number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[46][47] The latter was commercially aimed at R&B and hip hop-oriented radio stations due to the prominence of rappers Redman and Method Man on the track.[48] According Rich Ford, Jr., producer of the "Left & Right" music video, both the single and the video went commercially unnoticed due to MTV's refusal to place the song's video in rotation, serving as punishment for missing the deadline for its initial premiere. The fifth single "Feel Like Makin' Love" was less successful, reaching number 109 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.[49] "Send It On", the album's fourth single, achieved moderate chart success, peaking at number 33 on Billboard '​s Pop Singles chart.[50] The album's third single, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)", became its greatest chart success, peaking at number 25 on the Hot 100 Singles and at number two on the R&B Singles chart.[51] The infamous music video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" helped in boosting the song's appeal, as well as D'Angelo's. Billboard wrote of video, "it's pure sexuality. D'Angelo, muscularly cut and glistening, is shot from the hips up, naked, with just enough shown to prompt a slow burning desire in most any woman who sees it. The video alone could make the song one of the biggest of the coming year".[52] It earned three nominations for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, Best R&B Video, and Best Male Video.[53]

After the release, D'Angelo embarked on what would become one of the most fabled series of live soul shows in history, the Voodoo Tour. Consisting of a live group called the Soultronics (presumed to have been assembled by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of The Roots), which engulfed arena-size stages with various dancers and instrument players, it was one of the most attended shows of the year. The tour was taken all around the world, some of the most notable performances being the Free Jazz Festival in Brazil and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Europe.[54] The live show was a thinly disguised homage to Prince's late 1980s shows in its grandeur, conceptual stage set-up, and set list. Slum Village (then in its original line-up of Jay Dee, Baatin & T3) opened for D'Angelo on several dates, and soul-tinged R&B singer Anthony Hamilton sang backup in the band.

In 2002, Q magazine named him in its list of the 50 Bands to See Before You Die, and, in 2003, Voodoo was ranked at number 488 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Pitchfork Media rated it at #44 on its list of the best albums of the 2000s.

2001–2009: Second sabbatical[edit]

Since 2000, D'Angelo had given no interviews or live performances, and released no new material, save for minor collaborations with other artists, and sporadic unfinished demos leaked to the Internet. A follow up album of Voodoo has been rumored for years. D'Angelo's two studio albums garnered much commercial and critical acclaim, and have been cited as two of the most excellent and singular R&B albums of the past 15 years.[55] Rock critic Robert Christgau has dubbed him as "R&B Jesus".[56]

After a long period of inactivity, D'Angelo made guest appearances on several albums, including releases by J Dilla, Common,[57] Red Hot & Riot, and the RH Factor. The former was released in 2002 by the Red Hot Organization on MCA/Universal Records as a compilation album that paid tribute to the music and work of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. D'Angelo performed on a remake of the Fela Kuti classic "Water No Get Enemy" with fellow contemporary R&B artists Macy Gray, the Soultronics, Nile Rodgers, Roy Hargrove, and Fela Kuti's son Femi Kuti. All proceeds from Red Hot & Riot were donated to charities devoted to raising AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. In August 2006 he began collaborations with Common and Q-Tip. He also entered discussions with Jermaine Dupri on how to market what appears to be a forthcoming LP, although the official news of a release has not been made public yet.[58] Although music for his own album has yet to materialize, D'Angelo was featured on the song "Imagine" by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, from his album Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, which was released on November 21, 2006. On April 17, 2007, a new song called "Really Love" was leaked on Triple J Radio in Australia by Questlove[59] D'Angelo also had a guest appearance on Common's 2007 album, Finding Forever on the track "So Far to Go," a song that first appeared on J Dilla's 2006 release The Shining. After a 2007 court proceeding, he confirmed very briefly that new music was in the works, although the album remained untitled.[60]

On June 24, 2008, Virgin/EMI released an enhanced greatest hits CD/DVD that included top hits, rare tracks, and seven previously unreleased music videos from D'Angelo. According to the press release, "The new collection is titled The Best So Far… because D'Angelo is far from finished, currently writing and recording his highly anticipated next musical chapter." There was also a digital album, video downloads, and ringtones available on the day of its release.[61] In November 2008, D'Angelo's collaboration with Q-Tip was officially confirmed with the release of the Q-Tip album The Renaissance, which featured D'Angelo on the track “Believe.”

2009–present: New album and European tour[edit]

D'Angelo performing at Brixton Academy in London, 2012.

A new album was originally slated for release in 2009. D'Angelo revealed that the album would be titled James River and that Prince would work heavily on the disc. The collaboration was to have a list reading like a who's who in the contemporary R&B, neo soul and funk genres. The year came and went with no album being released. D'Angelo's manager said in a brief statement, "James River, D’Angelo’s first studio effort in nearly nine years, is also sporting a collaboration with Gnarls Barkley’s Cee Lo Green. Green joins Raphael Saadiq, Mark Ronson, and Roy Hargrove, who have already contributed to D’Angelo’s forthcoming album."

In the early part of 2010, D'Angelo was rumored to be in the studio hard at work on his long-delayed third album.[62] On January 29, 2010, an incomplete song titled "1000 Deaths" was leaked on to the Internet and uploaded on YouTube, claiming it was to possibly be from the James River album; however, after four days, it was deleted because of a copyright claim by D'Angelo's publishing company. Although the official Web site went offline in November 2009, in February 2010, it started linking to D'Angelo's official MySpace Page with a banner mentioning Album & Tour Summer 2010. After his June arrest in New York City, his MySpace page stopped showing the banner, and, one day later, his management issued a statement that said that he entered a plea of not guilty and was contesting the allegations made against him. Erykah Badu tweeted that he visited her in the studio while working on his own album at the Electric Lady Studios in New York.[63] His manager's MySpace page stated "D’Angelo’s album is slated for release late summer 2010" until early 2011. At this current time, however, his manager's MySpace mentioned, "D'Angelo's album is slated for release Fall 2011,"[64] but delays in the album release are suspected.

In late May 2010, various online record stores began listing an album called Interpretations: Remakes for sale.[65] Most of the listed tracks have been widely available for some time, via CD or MP3, and it is not clear if this is an official release, as no announcement was made. The cover art is the same as 2008's Best So Far compilation album. Later in the year, the Web site of Russell Elevado claimed that D'Angelo had returned to New York for three months to finish his album, stating, "The time has finally come again to go in the studio with D'Angelo. starting the last week of August and for the next three months, we're going in to complete overdubs and do final mixing on a few songs. Wish us luck...more updates to come."[66]

No new announcements were made anywhere online or in the press about the album until December 6, 2010, when a company named 101 Distribution quietly released an import album overseas titled James River (Album Prelude), which featured just under an hour of snippets of new songs, alternate versions of others, and jam sessions, listing the official first song off the album as "1000 Deaths." It was released in the United States on December 28 on Amazon's Web site in limited quantities for over US$25, immediately deleted only 24 hours later. On several Web sites where the album was being sold it was claimed that the James River album would finally have a 2011 release, but nothing else is known about 101 Distributors or the validity of its statement. It has also been claimed that the album is a bootleg recording of stolen material and is not an official D'Angelo release of any sort.

In late April 2011, Russell Elevado again posted an update regarding the upcoming album on his Web site.

On October 7, RCA Music Group announced that it was disbanding J Records, Arista Records, and Jive Records. With the shutdown, D'Angelo (and all other artists previously signed to those labels) would release his future material on RCA Records.[67][68]

In late October 2011, two concerts were scheduled for January 30 and 31, 2012, at Club Paradiso in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Tickets went on sale on November 5 and were sold out within 24 hours.[69]

In an interview with Pitchfork Media, drummer ?uestlove said that the album was 97% finished and that D'Angelo was just finishing his lyrics.[70]

D'Angelo live at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, 2012.

For the 2012 Tour, he scheduled 11 concerts in Europe from January 26 to February 12 in London, Paris, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Zurich. The band included Pino Palladino, Chris "Daddy" Dave, Jef Lee Johnson, Kendra Foster, Isaiah Sharkey, Jermaine Holmes, Ray Angry, Jesse Johnson of The Time, and others. He performed four new songs: "Sugah Daddy," "The Charade," "Ain't that Easy," and "In Another Life." D'Angelo will continue to tour in Europe with dates booked throughout July 2012, plus an eagerly awaited performance at the Essence Music Festival. His first announced state-side show was held July 4, 2012 at the House of Blues Hollywood, another sold-out show. D'Angelo made his true first U.S. appearance in over 11 years, however, at an unannounced appearance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival as part of the Superjam led by ?uestlove.[71]

On July 8 he appeared at the renowned North Sea Jazz festival in Rotterdam, after his concert there twelve years earlier in 2000.[72]

In early 2013, ?uestlove told Billboard in an interview that the new album was 99% done, and would be ready to hand over to the label in February 2013, stating that he had spent much of January working in the studio with D'Angelo tying up loose ends.[73]

In a Redbull academy lecture, in June 2013, ?uestlove confirmed that the album will not be called James River. In August 2013 D'Angelo had to cancel five shows due to a serious medical emergency. On 21 May 2014 D'Angelo provided a well received lecture at the Rebull Music Academy in New York. In this lecture he talked about his early music development, technique, inspiration and some of his music peers.

On January 21, 2014, Russell Elevado (engineer for the Voodoo sessions) released three clips of D'Angelo and Pino Palladino recording new tracks for the upcoming album in studio. They feature brief pieces of the songs "Sugah Daddy" and "The Charade", as well as a clip of some guitar and trombone playing.

Personal life[edit]

In the 1990s he dated soul singer Angie Stone and helped produce her debut album Black Diamond in 1999. They have a son, also named Michael, born in 1998.

Legal issues[edit]

On March 6, 2010, he was arrested and charged with solicitation after asking a female undercover police officer for oral sex at the intersection of Greenwich and Horatio streets in the West Village of Manhattan in New York City, New York.[74][75]

Legacy[edit]

As a term, neo soul was coined by Kedar Massenburg of Motown Records in the late 1990s as a marketing category following the commercial breakthroughs of artists such as D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell. The commercial breakthrough of D'Angelo's debut album Brown Sugar (1995) has been regarded by several writers and music critics as inspiration behind the term's coinage.[76][77]

Music writers have credited the breakthroughs of D'Angelo's Brown Sugar (1995), Erykah Badu's Baduizm (1997), Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (1996), and Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) with shaping and raising the neo soul movement to commercial visibility into the late 1990s.[11][78][79][80] According to Farley, D'Angelo's album "gives a nod to the past, [...] mints his own sound, with golden humming keyboards and sensual vocals and unhurried melodies [...] His songs were polished without being slick and smart without being pretentious", while Badu "brought an iconoclastic spirit to soul music, with her towering Afrocentric headwraps, incense candles, and quirky lyrics".[81] Since Brown Sugars initial reception, the album's sound has been dubbed as "neo soul".[82] D'Angelo's commercial breakthrough with Brown Sugar has been credited by writers and music critics for providing commercial visibility to the emerging neo soul movement of the mid-1990s, as well as inspiration behind the coinage of the term neo soul.[82][76][77] The term was originally coined by Kedar Massenburg to market D'Angelo's music, as well as work by Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell.[82] In a 1996 article for the Chicago Tribune, critic Greg Kot cited Brown Sugar as "arguably where the current soul revival started".[76] USA Today '​s Steve Jones wrote that the album "paved the way for innovative albums by Maxwell, Tony Rich and Eric Benet".[83]

Discography[edit]

Main article: D'Angelo discography

Albums[edit]

Tours[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]