Voodoo: D’Angelo’s Impeccable Timing
1999 and 2000 were very big years for rap fans. A slew of high quality albums was released: The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides, Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele and Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 to name a few. These examples perfectly illustrate the variety of sound that was available within the genre. Hip hop had bloomed and was booming. I was content.
For those who don’t know me, let me make one thing clear: I love rap. A simple statement for a simple sentiment. Black and white. Unambiguous. Unequivocal. I. Love. Rap. It’s been this way ever since a fateful day in 1988 and honestly, had I not been naturally curious about music in general, rap probably would’ve been the only musical genre I would’ve allowed into my existence. It simply seemed to fulfill most of my needs as a young man. It made me feel strong, manly, intelligent, invincible. To top it off, I had a few friends that were along with me for the ride, and they felt the exact same way. So there we were: a bunch of dudes whose life soundtrack was almost entirely composed of rap. Love, happiness, anger, sex, all of these emotions and many more had their corresponding verse, track or beat. For many years, that was the way it was, and it was enough… or at least I thought it was.
I’d always been aware of R&B but, for some reason it rarely “did it” for me. As a budding connoisseur of music, I knew most of the groups and their music quite well, but rarely dwelled on them for long periods of time. Whenever I needed a fix of smoother sounds (there’s only so much rap a human being can ingest before starting to feel full), I would gravitate towards The Immortals of Soul: Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, etc.
A new sound emerged around the early 90s, as a result of the merging of Soul and contemporary R&B: Neo Soul. It was fresh, new, and did just enough to have its own fan base. One of the faces of this new sound was the one and only D’Angelo. Now I won’t lie. When he released his first album Brown Sugar in 1995, the title track had been released as a single, and though I thought it was good and interesting, it didn’t make me ache for more, and I didn’t bother listening to the full LP. It’s only a few years later, when I heard D’Angelo’s rendition of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin”, that I thought “Aaah! Ok, ok!” and began to pay attention.
Fast forward a few years. The new millennium was upon us. I’d grown. My musical taste had matured. My needs had evolved. The soundtrack to my life naturally followed these changes, and needed for the tracks that composed it to reflect the growth. As a devout music fan, I liked knowing that the artists that I enjoyed also evolved within their art. The potential that D’Angelo had shown with his first release had been frightening, and I’d been looking forward to following the man’s musical journey. Unfortunately, aside from a couple of featurings (the most noteworthy being Method Man’s “Break Ups to Make Ups”), D’Angelo had pretty much been absent from the scene, so I had no idea where his artistic trek had taken him. There were rumours that a 2nd album was in the works, but nothing had been leaked (I’m note sure leaks even existed at the time). Then, in early 2000, it finally happened: Voodoo was released.
Voodoo was a beautiful, dense, albeit sometimes odd piece of work. A sexy album that men could enjoy as much as women. Once I was done listening to it, I realized what I’d been missing: a modern selection of sensuous compositions, that could perfectly compliment the mellower episodes of my life. Still today, twenty years later (January 25th 2020 marked the album’s 20th anniversary), I can still feel and see the effects that it had on some of my fellas and myself. Essentially, it made us, young men, comfortable in embracing our sexier and more sensitive side, without feeling that our virility was being compromised: a rare if not impossible feat, especially at the start of the 21st century.