D'Angelo is a mysterious figure having changed modern R&B with his first two hit records Brown Sugar and Voodoo, followed by a 12-year silence and 14-year break in albums before a surprise release of the highly acclaimed Black Messiah last December. Now, we're getting a peak inside the mind of his genius through his first TV interview in a decade -- done with Tavis Smiley on PBS.
In a two-part, two-night interview, D'Angelo talks about the tenderness of his upper register, meeting Eric Clapton through an admiration of Curtis Mayfield, the artist's experience in the Pentecostal church and of course his latest album.
"Music is such a universal language," D'Angelo said talking about the reception of his album and his religion. "It totally informs everything I do, when I go out on the stage I bring that with me."
His latest album is a synthesis of black culture from all over the world, using R&B, soul, gospel and African rhythm to share those experiences. It's also a protest record touching on issues of police brutality, racism and the issues being tackled by Black Lives Matter.
"Black Messiah is, I think, the most sociopolitical stuff I've done on record. I think in lieu of everything that's been going-the sign of the times, right-something needs to be said," D'Angelo said according to a transcription from Consequence of Sound. "There's so few doing that right now, and that was funny to me because there's so much going on."
His political message came through loud and clear on a Saturday Night Live performance of "The Charade" earlier this year in which he sung facing away from a chalk outline that became his shadow symbolizing those who have died through police brutality and the possibility that it can happen to anyone -- including himself. The act mirrored the song's powerful line, "All we wanted was a chance to talk/ still we only got our lines in chalk."
Discussing the 14-year gap between records, D'Angelo only had to say that he was writing music and working on his craft.
"You never want to be at a place where you feel like you've arrived," he said. "It's always an upward incline."
D'Angelo has six more tour dates this year. See the full list on his official website and watch the two-part interview below.