D’Angelo ‘s Black Messiah, his first studio album for 14 years, wasn’t intended to be released in 2014—his label RCA had planned to release it in 2015. But the reclusive crooner requested a rush release following nationwide protests over police killing unarmed black men.
The New York Times interviewed D’Angelo’s friends and collaborators about the days surrounding the album’s release. His co-manager Kevin Liles said that after a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, he received a call from D’Angelo. “He said: ‘Do you believe this? Do you believe it?’ And then we just sat there in silence. That is when I knew he wanted to say something.”
He told the label that he wouldn’t wait any longer to release the album. “The one way I do speak out is through music,” he reportedly told his tour manager Alan Leeds. “I want to speak out.”
D’Angelo and the label apparently pulled all-nighters for a month to finalise the album’s details, including the track list and artwork. Russell Elevado, D’Angelo’s longtime studio collaborator, told the New York Times that he only finished working on the album three weeks ago. “It’s pretty much right out of the oven—it’s still hot.”
Another revelation – some RCA employees only heard the album for the first time at the Manhattan listening party on Sunday night.