D'Angelo In-depth Biography
D'Angelo} was one of the founding fathers and leading lights of the neo-soul} movement of the mid- to late '90s, which aimed to bring the organic flavor of classic R&B} back to the hip-hop} age. Modeling himself on the likes of Marvin Gaye}, Stevie Wonder}, Prince}, Curtis Mayfield}, and Al Green}, D'Angelo}'s influences didn't just come across in his vocal style -- like most of those artists, he wrote his own material (and frequently produced it as well), helping to revive the concept of the R&B} auteur. His debut album, Brown Sugar}, gradually earned him an audience so devoted that the follow-up, Voodoo}, debuted at number one despite a five-year wait in between.
Michael D'Angelo Archer} was born February 11, 1974, in Richmond, VA, the son of a Pentecostal minister. He began teaching himself piano as a very young child, and at age 18, he won the amateur talent competition at Harlem's Apollo Theater} three weeks in a row. He was briefly a member of a hip-hop} group called I.D.U. and signed a publishing deal with EMI} in 1991. His first major success came in 1994 as a writer/producer, helming the single "U Will Know"} on the Jason's Lyric} soundtrack}; it featured a one-time, all-star R&B} aggregate dubbed Black Men United}. That helped lead to his debut solo album, 1995's Brown Sugar}. Helped by the title track and "Lady,"} Brown Sugar} slowly caught on with R&B} fans looking for an alternative to the hip-hop} soul} dominating the urban} contemporary landscape; along with artists like Erykah Badu}, Lauryn Hill}, and Maxwell}, D'Angelo} became part of a retro-leaning, neo-soul} revivalist movement. Brown Sugar} received enormously complimentary reviews and sold over two million copies, and D'Angelo} supported it with extensive touring over the next two years.
And then -- not much of anything happened. D'Angelo} took some time off to rest and split acrimoniously with his management; meanwhile, EMI} went under, leaving his 1998 stopgap release Live at the Jazz Cafe} out of print. On occasion, D'Angelo} contributed a cover tune to a movie soundtrack}, including Eddie Kendricks}' "Girl You Need a Change of Mind"} (Get on the Bus}), the Ohio Players}' "Heaven Must Be Like This"} (Down in the Delta}), and Prince}'s "She's Always in My Hair"} (Scream 2}). He also duetted with Lauryn Hill} on "Nothing Really Matters,"} a cut from her Grammy-winning blockbuster The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill}. Still, fans awaiting a proper follow-up to Brown Sugar} remained frustrated -- at first by no news at all, and then by frequent delays in the recording process and the scheduled release date. Finally, the special-guest-laden Voodoo} was released in early 2000 and debuted at number one, an indication of just how large -- and devoted -- D'Angelo}'s fan base was. The extremely Prince}-like lead single, "Untitled (How Does It Feel),"} was a smash on the R&B} charts and won a Grammy for Best Male R&B} Vocal; likewise, Voodoo} won for Best R&B} Album. Reviews of Voodoo} were once again highly positive, although a few critics objected to the looser, more atmospheric, more jam-oriented feel of the record, preferring the tighter songcraft of Brown Sugar}. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide