Angie Stone Reflects on a Life in Music, a New Album + More [LP Stream + Exclusive Interview]
Today, Angie Stone releases her seventh studio album Dream; a record that marks her first outing in three years and brings her immeasurable contribution to the canon back to the forefront.
While many may associate Stone's beginnings with Black Diamond (the 1999 solo debut that found her linking with Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Russell Elevado andD'Angelo amongst other late-'90s heavyweights) Angie's story begins well before the dawn of neo-soul. Few may recall that the Columbia, South Carolina songbird commenced her near 40 year journey into the annals of musical greatness as a foundational member of the all-female hip-hop trio The Sequence (then Angie B.) in the late-'70s, which graced the world with "Funk You Up" in '79 and became a piece of the source material for Dr. Dre's G-funk anthem "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" in 1995.
Over the years, Stone has gone on to deliver a number of cherished records, but found herself uninspired after enduring the strong arm of the industry for years on end. An embattled few years ended with a call from producer Walter Milsap, who claimed a divinely-inspired dream brought him to her with a mission to reinvigorate and reestablish her presence in the game at a point when she was just about ready to throw it all in. And so, you may wonder, Where has Angie Stone been? What's she been up to?--and what took so damn long in the first place?
Wonder no more.
OKP recently had the opportunity to get on the horn with the modern soul maven, touching on her legacy, passing the torch to another leading lady of r&b, her triumphs and struggles, her new record Dream, and how it almost didn't happen. Read on to get reacquainted with the lovely Miss Angie Stone in an OKP exclusive interview along with a full stream of the new record and grab your copy on iTunes today.
>>>Click Thru to Pg. 2 to Hear Dream + Read Our Q&A with Angie Stone
OKP: Go ahead and reintroduce yourself, Angie.
Angie Stone: You know, this is big for me because I've always been a fan of Okayplayer and I'm grateful that you guys are reaching out, allowing me to have a moment with you.
OKP: Oh, it's our pleasure.
AS: I'm at a place, you know, in my life and my career where I'm just grateful that God continues to bless me.
OKP: That's beautiful. You've certainly got the blessings and that's actually where we wanted to start. As far as your place in hip hop, your first stint was with the pioneering group, The Sequence. Tell me about that experience a bit. Are you all still close?
AS: Blondie is with me now. We're actually showcasing the girls on my show now. Because we want to let the world know we're still here, we're still first and um, it's been a ... a somewhat of a large experience for me because I've had to continue working from 1979 until today. And as a result, I've carried that legacy all these years, never being recognized properly for it. Going to use what I have now to give back to the other women in the group because, they haven't been as fortunate as I have to stay on Front Street, and they would like to be recognized, you know?
OKP: What was it like as an all-female group in the all-boys-club that is/was hip-hop?
AS: We had absolutely no struggles. We were like the baby girls to the bunch. They were all very protective of us.
AS: We went out because we danced, we sang and we rapped. We had the entire Sugarhill Gang, along with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Funky Boys, The Fantastic Five. Anybody you name was on that tour bus. We were the only girls and they were like "nobody can touch our sisters." So I can honestly say that we had no complaints because we went out every night and annihilated the game because we were singing and rapping. And the only person to effectively keep that going was Lauryn Hill.
OKP: You see Lauryn as an extension of what you started back in '79?
AS: I see Lauryn Hill as Angie Stone, and Angie'd be what she was, growing up. Because I was the singer in the group. Like the rest of the group would have been The Fugees and I would have been the singer. So it's funny, but like, I saw her, saw the rebirth of Angie Stone. It was crazy.
OKP: That is crazy, because you were still pushing forward in your own career and making great records.
AS: When Black Diamond was released to the UK, I was on the cover of Rolling Stone and it was like, another Lauryn. That's what they looked at it as because they had not known any better. But I took a picture ... I took a picture of an old news article and put them side by side by the corner picture of Lauryn and it was frightening.
OKP: Stylistically, it feels like there's definitely some uncanny similarities there as well as in your (respective) careers. But it must feel good to know that your legacy as a dynamic vocalist is intact with new generations.
AS: Yeah, it has to ... I have to tell you, it's overwhelming because Lauryn ... Lauryn has what they call mother wit. Mother wit is an old soul that even as a child, sounds like a grown up. When you go back, that's what they all used to say I had. There was a song we did on The Sequence album called "Unaddressed Letter." It was a grown woman writing a letter to a man that she was, scorned with and I'm like "Why I gotta do that?" Because you have the grown up sounding voice. So it's just funny to me how life plays out, you know?
OKP: Did you ever have the opportunity to meet Lauryn?
AS: I have not met Lauryn yet, but I've learned from her. People always ask me, who would you like to meet? I said Lauryn Hill. Who would you like to work with? Lauryn Hill. You know why? Because in my opinion, it's like when Roberta Flack met me for the first time, she was in tears, because she said I reminded her of her at my age.
OKP: Oh, wow.
AS: I was standing on the Apollo Theater stage and she was on the sidelines crying and I didn't know why because she heard me doing "No More Rain," and she saw me with that afro, and she saw me with the full lips, and she saw me with the full hips, and in her opinion I was the rebirth of her. And in my opinion, Lauryn is the rebirth of both of us.
OKP: Not to keep things in the past, but recently you came up on a posthumous duet with Teddy Pendergrass. How did it feel to hear your voices on a track together?
AS: You know, I got to be honest with you. I thought it was an amazing concept. However, whoever mixed it, there were two different versions. And there was one version that was off key. It was sung in a whole different key. And I don't think that they had their bearings together when they were mixing that. I think they put one of the vocals in from the previous track, and all I was hearing was it being out of key. Other than that, I thought the collaboration was phenomenal.
OKP: Oh, it was beautiful. Did you ever have the chance to meet Teddy?
AS: You know what? I met Teddy. I was a little girl at the concert my mom took me to, 'cause she couldn't find a babysitter. He was just a man with a beard to me at the time.
AS: Because I was young, but I remembered all the songs: between him and Al Green, I couldn't hear The Jackson Five.
OKP: That must have been a full-circle type of moment when you got that track back.
AS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
OKP: So, let's talk about the new record, Dream ... How did you approach this record? Did the process differ from your last few?
AS: I'm working with Walter Milsap, who, in my opinion, is the brain. I'll be honest with you, I had given up. I really thought people were tired of Angie Stone. There was really not another ounce of joy in it for me. I'd been working real hard, and under-appreciated, I thought. But I was going to give up and move back home, move in with my mom and just do that.
OKP: And what brought you back?
AS: Walt called me up, said he had a dream that God had given him, that he was to go in and help Angie Stone. I said "naw, I'm not interested." I was through. When I told him I was through, he said "Angie just give me a shot at it, please." I said, "they don't want to hear me no more. I'm through. I can't ... fight this battle." He said "please." I said "All right, well go ahead, whatever you want to do" He never asked me for one red penny.
AS: He went and found an amazing project, put me in the studio, said "come with up these lyrics to write, here's some writers, they're gonna work with you." Wrote this song. We cuttin' two-a-day. The moment it was done, before we even had a deal for it, Stevie Wonder wanted to play one of the songs on his station. So we gave it to him and he played the record until we had a deal.
OKP: That's incredible. So Stevie came in and supported the project like that?
AS: It gets better. We got the deal, got the packaging ready. They put the single out. First week they put it out, it's the number one most-added record. The second week, it is the number one most-added record. Then in the second week, we was number two most-added video. And now, I'm finally on the phone with Okayplayer.
AS: I feel like everybody, comes from a place of loyalty. But when it comes to music, we have to have big broad lines. We can't wait until it happens to us and say, "Oh yeah, I see how and why" when you're dealing with a prodigy that's as good as him...
OKP: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
AS: You can't allow him to dictate how and what goes on. Trust me. Because we're all friends. We are all responsible for keeping a legacy of music going. And to be honest with you, I have needed you guys as much as we've needed each other. I needed you guys.
OKP: We're just glad to have you back, Ang.
AS: Thank you guys.