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Music / Black Messiah

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In another life, I bet you wouldn't know that.

"Black people need some peace, white people need some peace. And we are going to have to fight, we're going to have to struggle, we're going to have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace because the people that we're asking for peace, they're a bunch of megalomaniac war-mongers, and they don't even understand what peace means. We've got to fight them, we've got to struggle with them to make them understand what peace means."
Fred Hampton, sampled from The Murder of Fred Hampton on the intro to "1000 Deaths"

Black Messiah is the third studio album by singer-songwriter D'Angelo (credited to D'Angelo and the Vanguard), released in 2014 after considerable delays on RCA Records.

In 2000, D'Angelo had released his sophomore record, Voodoo, to critical acclaim and commercial success. Unfortunately, a series of personal and professional issues would plague him as he was in the process of making his third album, which apparently began production in 2002.

Constantly delayed, newer news on the album wouldn't come until 2007, when Questlove, a producer and drummer on the record and on Voodoo, leaked a track from the record (at this time, under the working title of James River) called "Really Love", a move which at the time would cause conflict between the two. The record would still not materialize at this time, even with Questlove claiming to Billboard in 2013 that 99% of the album was done. Around this time, D'Angelo began performing more often, including European club dates and scattered festival appearances.

That December, cryptic posts on various social media platforms announced, "Black Messiah is coming." One of the earliest warnings came from author, critic and filmmaker Nelson George, who had recently had D'Angelo on for his Finding the Funk documentary. On the evening of December 14th, George hosted an exclusive listening party for Black Messiah, an album credited to D'Angelo and his backing band, a mix of old and new musicians dubbed the Vanguard. The LP was released the following day on RCA.

An broad-ranging record, Black Messiah would exhibit a sound defined by experimentation with jazz, funk and psychedelia, and contain lyrics with strong influence from the rise of social unrest over police brutality in the mid-2010s, lending to the record's terse atmosphere and experimental nature.


  1. "Ain't That Easy" (4:49)
  2. "1000 Deaths" (5:49)
  3. "The Charade" (3:20)
  4. "Sugah Daddy" (5:02)
  5. "Really Love" (5:44)
  6. "Back to the Future (Pt. I) (5:22)
  7. "Till It's Done (Tutu)" (3:51)
  8. "Prayer" (4:33)
  9. "Betray My Heart" (5:55)
  10. "The Door" (3:08)
  11. "Back to the Future (Pt. II) (2:24)
  12. "Another Life" (5:58)

Betray My Tropes

  • Darker and Edgier: This record is essentially this to Voodoo.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The cover art, which depicts the raised hands of Afro-Americans raised in protest in black and white.
  • Double Meaning: "Back to the Future (Pt. I)" has been interpreted as both a love song about wanting to get back with a lover or as D'Angelo wishing to relieve the days of his professional apex.
  • Epic Rocking: Several songs breach the five minute mark with the final track, "Another Life" nearly reaching six minutes.
  • Follow Your Heart: "Betray My Heart", which can be interpreted as a love song about loving and being there for yourself.
  • Funk: The record would display a very psychedelic and tenebrous variation of the genre.
  • Gospel Music: "Prayer" is practically a gospel song, with it asking the Lord for guidance during tough times.
  • Green Aesop: On "Till It's Done (Tutu)":
    Carbon pollution is heating up the air
    Do we really know? Do we even care?
    Acid rain drips on our trees and in our hair
    Are you there?
  • Intercourse with You: "Sugah Daddy" is this, so much:
    It's just the way she's so raw and uncut
    She needs a spankin' to shake her up
    And I just wish that I could open her up
    To this deeper place of love
  • Longest Song Goes Last: "Another Life" at nearly six minutes.
  • New Sound Album: Although the record is technically still in the same genre and carries the experimental nature of his previous record, Music/Voodoo. It would have a much darker, psychedelic funk driven sound and a much more leaden atmosphere.
  • One-Word Title: "Prayer"
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Both "The Door" and "Ain't That Easy". However, "The Door" is a bluesy mid-tempo song, whereas though "Ain't That Easy" is a psychedelic funk jam.
  • Protest Song: "1000 Deaths" is a primary example, comparing Afro-Americans struggle for justice to Christ nearing death on the cross.
    • "The Charade" is also particularly forthright about the former song's subject matter:
    Crawling through a systematic maze
    And it pains to demise
    Pain in our eyes
    Strain of drownin', wading into your lies
    Degradation so loud that you can't hear the sound of our cries
    • "Till It's Done (Tutu)" is another example noting various issues from climate change to war.
  • Psychedelic Rock: A noted influence on the record, with D'Angelo claiming the Beatles as an influence on the record and elements of the genre being exemplified on tracks such as "Ain't That Easy" and "The Charade" .
  • Sampling: Utilized throughout the record, but most apparent on "1000 Deaths" which samples speeches from Khalid Abdul Muhammad and Fred Hampton
  • Sequel Song: "Back to the Future (Pt. II) is this to "Back to the Future (Pt. I), with most of the song being a Call-Back to the chorus of the latter.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Really Love":
    When you look at me
    I open up instantly
    I fall in love so quickly
    I'm in really love with you
    I'm in really love with you