Brown Sugar (D'Angelo song)

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"Brown Sugar"
Single by D'Angelo
from the album Brown Sugar
ReleasedJune 13, 1995
FormatCD single, cassette
GenreR&B, Soul
Songwriter(s)D'Angelo, Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Producer(s)D'Angelo, Ali Shaheed Muhammad
D'Angelo singles chronology
"Brown Sugar"
Audio sample
Music video
"Brown Sugar" on YouTube

"Brown Sugar" is a song by American recording artist D'Angelo, taken from his debut album, of the same name. The song was released as the album's lead single in 1995, through the Cooltempo label. The song was written and produced by D'Angelo and frequent collaborator Ali Shaheed Muhammad.


Opened by falsetto ad-libs, an organ refrain and pulsating bass lines,[1] the title track "Brown Sugar" features a dark, thick texture and a gutbucket-jazz style and rhythm.[2] The instrumentation throughout the song, highlighted by Jimmy Smith-style organ work, atmospheric percussion and snapping snare drums, has been described by music writers as "organic".[3][4] The song's sound is also similar to the work of funk, soul and jazz musician Roy Ayers,[5] while D'Angelo's soulful tenor-delivery throughout the song's verses is stylistically similar the flow of most emcees at the time.[5]

Misinterpreted as a traditional love song about a femme fatale by most R&B audiences,[5] "Brown Sugar" is an ode to marijuana use through its use of the personification of a brown-skinned woman.[6] This thematic substitution is a conventional lyrical technique in hip hop.[7] Music journalist Peter Shapiro wrote of the song's lyrical content, stating "D'Angelo was extolling the pleasures of pot-fuelled solipsism ('Always down for a ménage à trois/But I think I'ma hit it solo/Hope my niggaz don't mind') and intimating that love, or at least love of the herb, leads to insanity ('Brown sugar babe/I gets high off you love/Don't know how to behave')."[4] Writer and academic Todd Boyd compared the song, along with Dr. Dre's The Chronic (1992) and Styles P's "Good Times" (2002), to Rick James's "Mary Jane" (1978), stating that the song "celebrated his love for gettin' blazed and spawned ... a truly large following."[8]


  • Written by D'Angelo and Ali Shaheed Muhammed
  • Produced by D'Angelo and Ali Shaheed Muhammad
  • Vocal arrangements by D'Angelo
    All vocals by D'Angelo
  • Musical arrangements by D'Angelo
  • All instruments by D'Angelo
  • Drum programming by Ali Shaheed Muhammad
  • Recorded at Battery Studios, NYC
  • Additional engineering by Tim Latham at Soundtrack, NYC
  • Mixed by Bob Power at Battery Studios, NYC
  • Assistant engineer: G-Spot


Chart (1995) Peak
UK Singles Chart[9] 24
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 27
US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[10] 5


  1. ^ Brown Sugar[permanent dead link]. Music City. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
  2. ^ Coker, Cheo H. Review: Brown Sugar. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on November 27, 2008.
  3. ^ Product Page: Brown Sugar. Muze. Retrieved on February 3, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Shapiro (2006), p. 104.
  5. ^ a b c D'Angelo Signed to RCA Music Group (J Records). PRWeb. Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
  6. ^ MVRemix Album Reviews: D'Angelo - Brown Sugar. MVRemix Media. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
  7. ^ Jon Caramanica et al. Hoard (2004), p. 210.
  8. ^ Boyd (2007), p. 135.
  9. ^ "D'Angelo - Artist - Official Charts". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Music News, Reviews, Articles, Information, News Online & Free Music". 2010-09-03. Retrieved 2010-09-07.

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