In an era of half-baked, studio-engineered, teenybopper pablum, Michael Archer, known to the mass populi as D'Angelo, is a breath of fresh air. Born on 02/11/74 in Richmond, VA, this son a preacherman grew up on a steady diet of old-school soul (Marvin Gaye,
Al Green), while absorbing the hypersexual funk of Prince. He also became a proficient master of many instruments, including the keyboards, piano, guitar, and drums.
1994 saw D'Angelo arrive on the scene with a tune he penned titled U Will Know, from the soundtrack to the urban drama, Jason's Lyric. In July 1995, he unleashed Brown Sugar upon the world. Notable tracks include the title track, a thinly-veiled ode to marijuana, as well as a silky-smooth cover of Smokey Robinson's Crusin'. The album was a critical and commercial success, fusing modern r&b with elements of jazz, hip-hop, and gospel. In the process, the album birthed a new subgenere: neo-soul, aka alternative soul, a distinctive brand of r&b that blends popular urban styles with the musicianship, sensuality, and sensibilities of old-school soul.
Five years, a live album, and some soundtrack work, would pass before D'Angelo would properly follow-up his masterpiece. And so there was great anticipation in January 2000, when his sophomore effort, Voodoo, was released. With a diverse supporting cast, including ?uestlove of the organic hip-hop troupe The Roots,
as well as a diverse array of instruments (vintage Fender Rhodes, Latin percussion), D'Angelo went into Hendrix's
Electric Ladyland recording studio and laid down an aural and lyrical epic the likes of which hasn't been seen in some time. The Prince tribute, Untitled (How Does It Feel), the salsa-inflected Spanish Joint, and the unbridled stomp of Chicken Grease are among the many highlights of this epic, which, based on the many critical plaudits and Grammy nominations, solidifies D'Angelo's place among the upper-echelon of modern soul musicians.