Last year in an attempt to fend off quarantine boredom I wrote about a different Prince song every day. I lasted 177 days. I had two major issues with the Daily Prince blog. First, I’m not sure if you’re aware but Prince recorded a lot of music. I could’ve written every day two years and still had hundreds of songs left on the list. Unless someone was going to pay me to make the Daily Prince my full-time occupation, there’s no way I could’ve kept it up. My second issue was that there’s already so much Prince material available. I had nothing more to add outside of personal anecdotes.
It’s time to shift my focus to another generational soul/funk/R&B messiah. A Soulquarian whose talent, ability, and mercurial nature are equal to Prince, but whose output couldn’t be more different. A man whose only living peers are Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone, yet he chooses to live in relative obscurity. Of course, I’m talking about D’Angelo.
While Prince treated us to albums – occasionally double or even triple albums – at a rate of about once per year for 40 years, D’Angelo does the opposite. Since 1995 when his debut album Brown Sugar dropped he’s released exactly three studio albums, a live album, and a “Best So Far” compilation. He famously vanished for nearly 15 years between 2000’s Voodoo and 2014’s Black Messiah albums. He appears sparingly on soundtracks and is rarely featured on other artists’ albums.
According to my list, I have exactly 49 songs that are either performed by D’Angelo or are duets featuring D. I’ll be writing about them over the next ten weeks. The list of 49 does not include outtakes from the Voodoo sessions that are available online. As much as I love “Joe Texan” I can’t put that on the list alongside his official tracks. It’s an unfinished studio jam session. There are too many random outtakes from the Voodoo era that come and go to catalog them anyway. 49 is a good number and it’s a fraction of the size of my Prince list. While the Prince list featured several songs that I could’ve done without, the D’Angelo list is perfect. There isn’t a single song I dislike. Everything on the list falls somewhere in the range between like and love. This leads me to the first difference between the Daily Prince blog and the D’aily: I will not be scoring songs. I regretted it when I was writing about Prince and I won’t do it again this time around. Every D’Angelo song comes highly recommended and leave it at that. This site is a celebration of my favorite artist. That doesn’t mean that I won’t pick a few favorites along the way.
The other difference is that I will only be posting on weekdays. Five songs per week is more than enough work. That will give me the weekends to take a breath and catch up. That also means that I’ll have every song on my list covered by Thanksgiving. The goal here is simply to show appreciation and give some much deserved attention to one of the greatest singer/songwriter/musicians of our time. I look forward to this journey and hope you’ll join me along the way.
I’m not going to make you wait for Monday to get started, though. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of my nine favorite tracks featuring D’Angelo that didn’t make the list of 49. Most of these are hip hop tracks featuring D’s vocals in the chorus. Before someone asks, yes, I’m aware that there are several other songs out there featuring D’Angelo, but I limited it to these nine so if I miss one I don’t have to read comments about forgetting something. I didn’t forget anything. It’s just not one of my favorites. These are (in no particular order…except I’m saving my favorite for last):
Break You Off – The Roots feat. D’Angelo (2002)
Fans of The Roots know that the final version of this track featured the vocals of Philly soul legend Musiq Soulchild. The Roots also tested the track with D’Angelo on vocals and you can find a sample of it on J. Period’s The Best Of The Roots mixtape. I’m sure I knew at one point why they nixed D’Angelo in favor of Musiq, but I’m struggling to find the reason why in my research now. Let’s assume it was some record label shit. As it turns out, Musiq is a more than capable replacement and this track is dope regardless.
So Far To Go – J. Dilla feat. Common and D’Angelo (2006)
Legendary producer/beatmaker and Soulquarian J. Dilla has become the gold standard for sampling and melodic hip hop beats. He passed away in February 2006 after complications with lupus. Much of his second album, Donuts was recorded in his hospital bed using a sampler and a record player. It was released three days before his death and set the bar for sampling and hip hop beats that is still yet to be surpassed. In August of the same year The Shining was released. Much of it was completed during Dilla’s lifetime but the rest was posthumously completed. “So Far To Go” used the beat from the Donuts track “Bye.” Not surprisingly, Common and D’Angelo did Dilla justice adding vocals to an already soulful track. In 2007 a slightly modified version of “So Far To Go” appeared on Common’s album Finding Forever.
Imagine – Snoop Dogg feat. Dr. Dre and D’Angelo (2006)
Perhaps the most surprising of D’Angelo’s features, he appears alongside hip hop legends Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. D adds his patented haunting harmonies to this beautiful, introspective Snoop track. This song as well as “So Far To Go” appeared out of the blue during a period when we hadn’t heard from D in quite some time and gave me hope that he was still out there working on music.
Ibtihaj – Rapsody feat. GZA and D’Angelo (2019)
This is one of my favorite songs of the past several years. Rapsody took an old GZA track and improved it, thanks in no small part to D’Angelo’s freaky harmonies. Then to top it off, she brought in GZA himself for a verse. She continues to be one of the best rappers in the game and D’s work was the icing on this already amazing cake. Real hip hop.
Believe – Q-Tip feat. D’Angelo (2008)
This record is so underrated. Q-Tip’s second solo album The Renaissance was released on Election Day of 2008 and I’m always reminded of the hopeful vibe of the Obama election when I hear it. Yet another D’Angelo appearance during the long wait between his second and third albums that kept me believing that there would still be another album coming.
I’ll Stay – The RH Factor feat. D’Angelo (2003)
The RH Factor was a jazz/hip hop/soul/funk collaboration featuring many members of D’Angelo’s Soultronics band that played with him during the 2000 Voodoo tour. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove was the bandleader, but Soultronics guitarist Chalmers “Spanky” Alford, bassist Pino Palladino, and pianist James Poyser were also members of the group as well as current Late Show With Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste. I considered adding “I’ll Stay” to the main list of 49 tracks, but it’s really an instrumental track with D’Angelo contributing occasional vocal accompaniment. “I’ll Stay” remains on this short list, but don’t sleep on Roy Hargrove’s work. He had a throwback jazz sound on trumpet and brought that to the 1990’s and 2000’s. Sadly, Hargrove battled kidney failure for the last 14 years of his life and died at 49 years old in 2018. His creativity and flawless tone on trumpet live on in his music.
Tell Me – Slum Village feat. D’Angelo (2000)
Slum Village is a hip hop group from Detroit that has seen multiple configurations during its existence. The first two Slum Village albums – Fantastic Vol. 1 and 2 – featured aforementioned beatmaker J. Dilla along with rappers Baatin and T3. “Tell Me” is highlighted by a classic laid back, slightly discombobulated Dilla beat but D contributes an ethereal hook to complement the verses. This track makes me yearn for a Dilla/D’Angelo album.
Break Ups 2 Make Ups – Method Man feat. D’Angelo (1998)
In the late-1990s it seemed someone from Wu-Tang Clan had a solo album dropping monthly. Tical 2000: Judgement Day was Method Man’s follow-up to his smash hit 1994 Tical. D’Angelo already had enough cred after only one album to earn himself a feature on one of the album’s singles and he delivered. In fact – no disrespect to Method Man, who I love – I find this to be one of Meth’s weaker tracks, but D’s chorus saves it enough for me to include it on this list. For what it’s worth, it’s one of the most streamed D’Angelo songs on Apple Music, and that actually kind of bothers me.
The ‘Notic – The Roots feat. Erykah Badu and D’Angelo (1997)
I said I was going to save my favorite for last. If you guessed my favorite D’Angelo feature was going to come from the Men In Black soundtrack, congratulations. I still can’t believe this neo-soul masterpiece appears in the midst of the radio-friendly contemporary hip hop on this album. It’s like hanging a Van Gogh amongst finger paintings. The Roots were already versatile enough to play any kind of music you wanted, but for me they really found their groove on a series of mellow tracks. “Silent Treatment” from 1995’s Do You Want More?!!!??! The brilliant “What They Do” from 1996’s Illadelph Halflife. Grammy award winner “You Got Me” from 1999’s Things Fall Apart. The Roots owned that vibe back in the day and “The ‘Notic” belongs on that list.
This concludes your D’Angelo sampler platter. Enjoy these tracks over the weekend because next week the D’aily will start in full. The journey starts Monday with the first randomly selected D’Angelo track.