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He’ll drop a single, “Really Love,” next month but won’t disclose the name of his album.
Not following trends
If “Voodoo” was more improvisational and organic than his structured, soulful “Brown Sugar” debut in 1995, what’s the new album like?
“It’s funky,” D’Angelo said with a hearty laugh. “It’s definitely a progression from ‘Voodoo.’ I lock myself in a bubble so I haven’t been too up on things. I never base my [stuff] on trends. I ain’t skipping a beat. This new [stuff] is powerful.”
Yes, that long-awaited third album is “almost” done. But he’s been saying that for — how many years?
“I’ve been saying it for too long actually,” he said. “There’s been a lot of red tape and record business stuff that goes on. Legal issues kind of halted things. [He was arrested for drug possession in 2005 and for soliciting a female undercover New York police officer in 2010.] A lot of personal things as well. Thank God, I’m here and I’m healthy. And I’m going to give the people more.”
A call for help to Clapton
Some of the personal issues, such as his addiction to drugs and alcohol, are no secret. He went to rehab three times; the last time, he personally phoned Eric Clapton to allow him into Clapton-founded Crossroads Centre in Antigua.
The 2006 death of hip-hop producer J Dilla, who worked with A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Common and others before succumbing to a rare blood disease, had a profound impact on D’Angelo.
“That shook up everybody. We just did a song together for Common,” he said of J Dilla. “We were friendly and talked a lot and made plans to do some more things together. We really lost a force. I was so shaken up that I couldn’t even go to the funeral. I was knee deep in my addiction at that time. That one — wow — that’s when I called Eric Clapton.”
All along, D’Angelo kept writing songs, trying to create art, not music, or as he puts it: “I’m trying to bring balance to the force.” He practiced guitar. (Keyboards have been his main instrument since age 3, when he played in his preacher-father’s church.) He had three children — now 16, 13 and 2 — with three different women in different parts of the country. And he had to cope with the heady expectations of being soul music’s next big thing.
What’s the hardest thing about being D’Angelo?
“That’s a tough question,” said the man born Michael Archer in Richmond, Va. (where his mom keeps his two Grammys). “I’m still trying to figure all that out. There is a separation between D’Angelo and Michael. When I’m at home, I’m just Dad. I get a kick out of how my kids see D’Angelo, the artist. That’s a trip sometimes.
“I’ve talked about the issues I’ve had with substance abuse. I think more is made of that whole sex symbol thing. I don’t look at it so much as a problem. Everybody has their own individual way of dealing with fame or celebrity. There is no school for that, especially for musicians. Athletes have more things in place for them to learn how to deal with success, money, fame and all that stuff. It’s tricky. I’m learning how to navigate my way through all of that. I think I’ll be doing that till I die.”
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719