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D’Angelo’s solo album Voodoo, released in the spring of 2000, brought the neo-soul movement two steps forward by taking one step back
D’Angelo’s solo album Voodoo, released in the spring of 2000, brought the neo-soul movement two steps forward by taking one step back. With a healthy dose of classic influences in the form of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Prince, to name a few, what D’Angelo, production team Soulquarians (with Jay Dee and The Roots in the forefront) and a handful of other extreme talents conjured up in Hendrix’s own Electric Lady Studios from 1998 onwards became an instant classic. Together with Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate, Voodoo shaped a musical era that saw the coming together of organic, instrumental hip-hop and retro-leaning soul.
Voodoo is minimal throughout, as if producers Questlove, Raphael Saahdiq, Jay Dee and DJ Premier held back on their gritty rhodes and bass lines to prevent a funk-overdose. ’One Mo’ Gin’, a painfully slow jam about a lost love, has an ever so slight break 40 seconds in that must captivate every listener. In the thick of a three-minute-song R&B era, D’Angelo and crew brought back the old days by jamming to the last drop and multitracking nearly all of D’Angelo’s vocals, making the album sound more like a 70’s record than one from the new millenium. ’Feel Like Makin’ Love’, a Jay Dee-produced Roberta Flack-cover masterfully interpreted by The Roots, epitomizes the vibe of the album and its minimal soundscape. When executive producer Questlove squeezes more juice out of the instruments on unbelievably groovy ’Playa Playa’, he is matched by an equally charging vocal performance by D’Angelo.
That the genuine sexiness of D’Angelo’s album was too hot for TV became apparent once the video for Raphael Saahdiq-produced ’Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ hit MTV. It resulted in parts of D’Angelo’s audience obsessing more over his body than his music, causing the singer’s delusion with his own career and a long musical hiatus. I’m far from the only one eagerly awaiting D’Angelo’s return to recording, but until he does, Voodoo will suffice for decades to come.
words Sven Carlsson