To be the son of a preacher man was once African American cultural royalty. As traditional churches
have grown empty many of us have been left to
wander these haunted castles like that displaced
Prince of Denmark, contemplating the paths of
our mothers: that electric lady that landed us here
in the first place. The Aquarian Age is a matriarchal
age, and if we are to exist as men in this new world
many of us must learn to embrace and nuture that
which is feminine with all of our hearts (he-arts).
But is there any room for artistry in hip hop’s
decadent man-sion? Have we walked our Timberlands
soleless…soul-less? When you pour that wine on the
ground in that video shoot that has become your life
will you be ready to hear the voice that pours from the bottle to inebriate the very ground on which we walk? It is libations such as these that are the start
of every voodoo ceremony. And let us not forget that
that is why we have come.
We have come in the name of Jimi, Sly, Marvin, Stevie, all artists formerly known as spirits and all
spirits formerly known as stars. We have come in
the tradition of burning bushes, burning ghettos,
burning splifs, and the ever-burning candles of our
bedrooms and silent chambers. We have come bearing instruments and our voices: Falsetto and baritone, percussion and horns. We have come
adorned in the apparel of the anointed: leather
and feathers, jeans and t-shirts, linen and cashmere,
and even polyester. We have come to seduce and
serenade the night and the powers of darkness.
We speak of darkness, not as ignorance, but as the
unknown and the mysterious of the unseen.
Envision this: a lone man in a haunted room surrounded by glowing instructments. What sounds
are evoked from a room where Jimi once slept?
What are the rewards of those who tend to their
God-given talents as they would have the Creator
tend to their spirits and daily lives? What happens
when the artist becomes the conjur man?
Whoa! Why am I attacking hip hop? ‘Cause I’m a lyricist, son, a lyricist that has had to serve as his
own inspiration when most of my peers seem to
idolize Donald Trump more than Sly Stone, when they don’t seem to realize that Jimi Hendrix was
and is a sonic Bill gates. Oh shit, don’t make me call
Now, you may ask, “Well what does this have to do
You might respond, “Lyrics? Yo, I can’t even understand half the shit that D’Angelo be saying.
That nigga sounds like Bobby McFerrin on opium.”
And I’d say, “You’re right. Neither can I. But I am
drawn to figure out what it is that he’s saying.
His vocal collaging intrigues me.” Or you might say,
“But his shit don’t sound all that original, he
just sounds like he’s trying to be Prince or some shit.” And I’d say, maybe you’re right. At times he does. We often study the breathing techniques of
our inspirations (inspire means to breathe in or to
make breath, inhale). And that’s also true for most
of you, emcees. I mean, don’t ¾ of y’all niggas sound like NAS? The difference is that D’Angelo has allowed
influence to simply take its place among his own
intuitive artistry. He works to find his own voice within his many influences. I’d pay to see Prince’s face as he listens to this album (Ahmir, ? of The Roots, said that the Artist lets Black people call him
Prince). Do you think he’d feel robbed or inspired?
My opinion, over the years as I’ve sat in countless
conversations about why it is that the Artist puts
out half the shit he does (you know the half I’m
talking about) is because he lacks any new inspiration. Once again an artist is faced with the reality of having to serve as their own inspiration
after they have worn out all their Sly, Jimi, Marvin,
Stevie ( I do not mean to ignore the many inspirational female singers, I’m just making a point
as regards this male vocalist)…
Damn, is there any way to speak of that which is feminine without having masculinity right in the middle of it? Female. Woman. Unless, of course,
these words came first and we later dervied male
and man from them. Somehow, I doubt that. We
need a new language to go along with this new age.
And a new music.
Thus, we have come. As we prepare to journey, we
must decide which elements of our sonic past we are going to pack to carry with us into this new day this new sound. The distilled ambiance of an Al Green song, the ambiguous sexual majesty of a Prince song,
the creative genius of Stevie Wonder…D’Angelo has made his choices, carefully weaving them into his
character, and has courageously stepped into the void bearing these sonic offerings to be delivered
to the beckoning goddess of the new age. I do not
wish to overly dissect this album. It’s true dissection occurs in how it seeps into your life shapes your
moments. What you were doing when you realized
he was saying this or that? How it played softly in the back ground when you first saw him or her. How
you kept it on repeat on that special night. You’ll see.
These songs are incantations, testaments of artistry,
confessions of an Aquarius as he steps into his own.
---text written by Saul Williams