Christians have been awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ for more than two millennia, now. Comparatively, we had to wait just under 15 years for Black Messiah.
Notoriously reclusive R&B superstar D’Angelo quickly and quietly released Black Messiah, the long-awaited follow-up to 2000’s Voodoo, to iTunes and Spotify last night, after teasing the album over the weekend by dropping a 15-second album trailer on Friday and first single “Sugah Daddy” on Saturday.
Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a follow-up, and the track record for albums with such long waits, uh, isn’t good. (See: Chinese Democracy; SMiLE.) But damn if Black Messiah, on first listen, is well worth the delay. Black Messiah is a superlative funk record in the vein of Prince circa Prince, Sly circa There’s a Riot Going On and P-Funk circa “Maggot Brain,” thanks in large part to D’Angelo’s fierce and fluid backing band The Vanguard. “Sugah Daddy,” teased earlier in the weekend, is vintage D’Angelo, sexy and sprightly and playful. And the vicious, quasi-industrial “1000 Deaths” is already making me regret submitting my Village Voice Pazz + Jop ballot early.