Another night, another amazing track from Black Messiah, and another heavy subject. Today’s track picks up where we left off yesterday. “Back To the Future (Part I)” was the sixth track from 2014’s Black Messiah, and today we get the seventh: “Till It’s Done (Tutu).” While yesterday was more about aging and reminiscing about the past, today is existential. Where do we belong? Where do we come from? These questions are repeated throughout “Till It’s Done.” D is no longer singing songs about weed disguised as love songs. This shit is deeper.
“Till It’s Done” was written by D’Angelo and Kendra Foster. Music written by D’Angelo, Pino Palladino, and Questlove. I want to start this out with a quote taken directly from the Black Messiah liner notes. This quote comes from legendary journalist/writer/filmmaker Nelson George:
“It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them. Not every song on this album is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album Black Messiah creates a landscape where these songs can live to the fullest. Black Messiah is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader.”
Listening to Black Messiah from start to finish is a roller coaster. “Ain’t That Easy” is an energetic opener. Then you’re immediately smacked across the face with the 1-2 punch of “1,000 Deaths” and “The Charade.” You get the frivolous nastiness of “Sugah Daddy” and the stunning beauty of “Really Love.” After that the album settles in to a groove of thought provoking, mid-tempo jams. Every song with the same warm sound thanks to D’Angelo’s insistence on an all analog recording process, real instruments, and Russell Elevado’s engineering. D’Angelo’s records literally don’t sound like most current music. They sound like they come from an era when a band would record music in a studio together instead of their laptops. It also helps when you can lay down vocals like D’Angelo.
“Till It’s Done (Tutu)” is one of the more socially conscious tracks on the album. It addresses our relationships with the planet and each other and our will (or lack thereof) to do what’s right. The title of the song casts a dark shadow over everything the track. D sings about how “tragedy flows around and there’s no place to run…till it’s done.” “Where do we belong? Where do we come from? Questions that call to us, we all reflect upon…till it’s done.” Everything is…until it isn’t. I wonder when he sings “till it’s done” is he saying until we die, or until the end of human existence. Or the end of the planet, which would also mean the end of our existence. I haven’t been able to figure it out. No matter which of the two is true, “till it’s done” hangs over the song like a cloud.
Here’s the lyric that hits me harder than any others on the track:
Clock tickin’ backwards on things we’ve already built
Sons and fathers die, soldiers, daughters killed
Question ain’t do we have the resources to rebuild?
It’s do we have the will?
Those words were obviously relevant at the time of the song’s release in 2014, but they’ve only become more in the time since. When he sings “things we’ve already built” he’s not talking about infrastructure. He’s talking about equality and civil rights. If we were slipping backward in 2014, we’ve been in a full sprint backward more recently. “Sons and fathers die, soldiers, daughters killed.” We’ve had nearly five million people killed by a global pandemic in the past 18 months and we can’t get 35% of the population to get a vaccination or even wear a fucking mask. Then he sings, “Question ain’t do we have the resources to rebuild? It’s do we have the will?” I think we know the answer, and right now it’s a resounding no. Again, if we can’t get a large portion of the population to make the minor sacrifice of occasionally putting a piece of cloth over the lower half of their face to help save lives, the answer to D’Angelo’s question is obvious. We do not have the will. We’ll bitch about our personal freedom and my body my choice…till it’s done.
After writing myself into a dark place today and contemplating age and the rapid passage of time yesterday I really need the D’aily Random Song Generator to deliver something upbeat to close the week. Guess what? We’re gonna get it, damn it. We’ve got something smooth and lovely to take you into the weekend. Tomorrow will also be celebratory because it will mark the halfway mark of the D’aily. Tomorrow is song #25 of 49. Listen to “Till It’s Done (Tutu)” today and think about it. Tomorrow we cruise.