Welcome back and Happy Monday. I promised a funky start to your week and now I shall deliver. A few weeks ago we discussed “Back To the Future (Part I)” and I made my requisite Marty McFly jokes. Now we’re back with Part II. I give you my word that there will be no further references to the movie franchise in this post. Let’s get the specifics out of the way first…
“Back To the Future (Part II)” is the 11th and penultimate track from D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s 2014 masterpiece Black Messiah. Lyrics and music are both by D’Angelo. It is literally and figuratively a continuation of Part I in that it picks up right where it fades out. It’s a continuation of the party. Remember when Digital Underground did “Doowutchyalike” back in 1990? After four minutes the song faded out. Then when it was almost silent there was a loud beep and the lady’s voice said something like, “If you’re playing this at a club, house party…we will now continue to give you more of what you like.” Then the song continued for another five minutes with Shock G. just talking some incredible nonsense. At one point someone named Baby Dope was involved. It was hilarious, and a clever way to give you more music beyond the radio edit.
That’s kind of what you get with “Back To the Future (Part II).” It’s an extension of the original, but D did a few things different than Digital Underground. First, unfortunately D’Angelo did not collaborate with Baby Dope. By 2014 Baby Dope was probably Mid-20’s Dope, which isn’t nearly as catchy or fun. Secondly, unlike “Doowutchyalike,” “Back To the Future” is split into two separate tracks. Digital Underground made it all one nine minute track. Not only did D’Angelo make “Back To the Future” two tracks, but there are four other songs between them on the album. Third, while The Underground added five minutes beyond the fade out, “Back To the Future (Part II)” is half that at only 2:25. It’s not quite the length of an entire extra song.
Here’s the most important difference: “Doowutchyalike” remains essentially the same for nine straight minutes. Part II becomes a different song. I won’t say it’s completely different because some of the elements of Part I remain, but 56 seconds into Part II the beat and bass line change and it becomes something much, much funkier. At the start of the song D repeatedly sings, “The season may come when your luck just may run out and all that you’ll have is a memory,” and it seems like the song will just fade out like that. Instead, just when you’ve settled in, it transforms into drums, bass, and handclaps. It only lasts for about 90 seconds, but that beat is so funky it leaves you begging for more. D chants “I used to get real high, now I just get a buzz” and then the beat fades. The difference is subtle, but damn the funk hits hard. I like to think that D gives you so much mellow stuff late in Black Messiah that he figured just before he makes love to your ears one more time with the final track “Another Life” he has to remind you who you’re dealing with. Yes, he’s a soul God and he can sing you tender ballads all night, but he’s also funky as shit. It’s a quick reminder before he closes out the album.
And with that, I’m closing out this post. I’ll take a bow as (I assume) the first ever to compare D’Angelo’s “Back To the Future” to Digital Underground’s “Doowutchyalike.” It’s difficult to top that, but I have one of my favorite D’Angelo tracks on deck tomorrow. I’ve been waiting for this one since Day One and it’s finally here. If there’s such thing as a most underrated or most slept on D’Angelo song, this would likely be my choice. It’s one of my favorites and I never hear it mentioned on “best of” lists. It wasn’t a hit or even a single. Just a dope album track that flies under the radar. Come back tomorrow to find out. Your assignment for today is to wait until the middle of the afternoon when your Monday is starting to drag, then press play on “Back To the Future (Part II)” for a jolt of energy. It’s a quick way to improve your mood. I’ll be back tomorrow with a great track to get you through your Tuesday. Thanks for checking in. Enjoy your Monday. R.I.P. Shock G.