Beyoncé: “This is the DNA of black music”
D’Angelo’s timeless album Voodoo recently celebrated it’s 15 anniversary.
In its honor, Solange’s Saint Heron website has organized a tribute, featuring several musicians sharing their thoughts on the album. Beyoncé, Solange, Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, Janelle Monáe, A-Trak, and more contributed. Read their thoughts below on the ground breaking album.
D’Angelo had already changed R&B with his first album. It seemed a bit crazy to imagine that he would reinvent the genre a 2nd time; but he did. Actually he did so even more the second time around, with Voodoo. For me, as a hip hop head, what I loved about Voodoo was the grit, the mud. “Devil’s Pie” was the ultimate, but then again, so were “Send It On” and “The Root,” and so was “Spanish Joint.” Every song struck this magic balance, where it somehow referenced classic soul but still sounded fresh and new, like nothing we had heard before. D’Angelo brought back horns on this album, in a way we hadn’t heard since MJ. But again, he made them dirty. There was so much magic. The swing of the drums, the perfection of the vocal stacks, Pino’s rubbery basslines… It’s amazing to see how many other musicians were influenced by Voodoo. It’s one of those albums that’s like a gift to the world.
Voodoo is as relevant today as it was when it first came out. D’Angelo’s harmonies, instrumentation and arrangements are iconic and timeless. His song structure of mixing classic R&B with the true roots of gospel jam session still resonates today. It is an album you can listen to from start to finish. This is the DNA of black music; all the love, pain, social statements and rawness punctuated by his effortless vocal progression from his funky low register to his sexy falsetto. My favorite song on the album is “Africa” and “Untitled” definitely inspired my song “Rocket.”
I remember the first time I heard Voodoo. As a musician, I would listen with so much intent to understand everything I could about how it grooved. The combination of Pino Palladino and Quest Love destroyed my understanding of how hard I was suppose to lock in as a bass player. Overall, the whole album brought me so much perspective on my instrument. One thing I will say is that I hate what it did to drummers. Everyone wanted to be Quest Love and fell miserably short. I mean seriously. Some of their grooves would sound as if someone stuffed two combat boots in a dryer and put a microphone next to it. But none the less, it caused a generation of us to reach further. It felt nice to know that you could create magic like that in a time when everything is so dependent on electronics. So in closing I say thank you D’Angelo, Quest Love, Pino Palladino and the whole slew of musicians involved in that album. Definitely changed my life and its nice to have you back D.
Voodoo was by far one of the best concept albums in music. From the start of the first interlude, I knew D’Angelo had created his own world and I wanted to be in it. Although I couldn’t understand a lot of the words –and still can’t — it made me fall deeper in love with his melody and his tone. The live musicianship through out was incredible and has definitely influenced me and my production team, Wondaland, to always bring in live instrumentation through our albums. For example the horns, guitar, bass and etc.
His harmonies and background vocals are still some of my favorites to listen to. I loved the way songs like “Devil’s Pie” right into “Left Right” seamless flowed. “Spanish Joint” opened my eyes to how elements and sounds from a different genre could work on the same album and still remain cohesive.
Voodoo is the church in which we all come to worship the religion of soul music. It is the word. It is the temple. It is the law for all lovers of true rhythm and blues. At 15-years-old, Voodoo is the most self-assured, decisive, deep in its roots, and “grown as hell” album in recent musical history I’ve ever experienced. A true testament to the term, timeless. Since its birth, it has always gone hand and hand with reflections of various milestones in my life. I was 13, when I heard “Untitled” and got goosebumps at the first knock of the snare. I couldn’t have been farther from having the answers when he belted “How Does It Feel,” but the deep down gutters of my soul said “Daaaaammmn Goot!”
My son was five when we filmed him trying his best attempt at break dancing to “Devils Pie,” if any song was gonna give him the spirit… that one was sure to. Almost seven years ago, I fell in love with my husband with “Africa” as our soundtrack, each chord of the beginning bells representing the sentiments of our oneness. “Send It On” became the song of the hour at many a Brooklyn house parties, about 15 women spread all around my apartment singing along emotionally in unison.
And alas, one of the greatest memories of my wedding was dancing to “Feel Like Making Love” until the wee hours, eyes closed, the biggest smile on my face. Whatever D’Angelo’s journey back to South Carolina and Virginia encompassed, somehow became my journey too. It delivered me. It spoke for me. It made me feel right around the corner from my ancestors. It help me to understand the woman I wanted to become.