Picture this: you’re facing your final moments like Michael Clarke Duncan’s character in Green Mile and are asked what you would like to eat for your final meal, and what album you would like to listen to while eating it. Would you have an answer? (a little bleak? yes, maybe, but bare with me, it’ll make sense soon)
I know it’s an extremely difficult question. There have been so many incredible albums recorded over the years since the dawn of musical time: Sgt. Pepper’s, Dark Side of the Moon, Pet Sounds, 2001 the list goes on and on. The very act of being asked to choose a final one should be considered an act of terror (it’s like being asked which family member you would save from a sinking ship… just criminal!). That being said, I must admit, I would have an answer: D’Angelo’s sweet sweet Brown Sugar.
I know what you are thinking, and yes, it’s that fucking good.
Brown Sugar released in 1995 as D’Angelo’s debut album (thanks EMI!) , and is recognised by many as having birthed the neo soul movement, to which he was later joined by the Erykah Badus, Lauryn Hills and Anderson Paaks of the world. It is also recognised as having caused a sharp rise in condom sales and pregnancies. Well, the second part is probably not true, but hey! it might be. I mean, if ever there was such a thing as ‘baby making music’, surely this is it.
The album featured 4 singles (which I won’t point you to because you should listen to the whole damn album). It went platinum in months, but what’s more impressive is taking a peek at the album credits and seeing that D’Angelo is responsible for most of the instrumentation, production, songwriting and vocals. In Prince-esque fashion D’Angelo (almost single handedly) puts neo soul on the map with a delicious combination of funk, soul, R&B and hip hop. A true jack-of-all-trades, and a master of them all (at the tender age of 21 no less).
D’Angelo marries the new and old schools by combining deep instrumentation (including a hammond organ) and modern hip hop production techniques to create a unique sound that could even get Clint Eastwood on the dance floor boogieing. Each track has more layers than your nona’s lasagna and, not to mention, the man actually has the voice of an angel.
Needless to say (if not obvious from this obnoxiously self-indulgent review) this album holds a very special place in my heart and despite being over 20 years old, is still never found too far down on the podium that is my recently played on Spotify. But in all seriousness, if I may humbly recommend, do yourself a favour: get a hold of a little devil’s lettuce (puff away) and pop this bad boy on, nice and loud. Better yet, get that special somebody over and do it with them. Be warned that clothing may (and likely will) fly off – this one could make even Barry White blush!