D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, The DVD Extras: Behind The Scenes Info From Questlove, Russell Elevado, Ben Kane + More

Okayplayer's Top 14 Albums Of 2014

Okayplayer's Top 14 Albums Of 2014

On Sunday night the surprise release of Black Messiah reversed the equation for D’Angelo disciples. For the past 15 years, being a D’Angelo fan meant engaging, not with music, but with data points about the lack of music or about its supposedly imminent appearance. With a sudden surplus of (amazing, life-re-examining) MUSIC, unleashed with almost none of the promotional info that conventionally accompanies an LP release, music heads could be forgiven for reacting to Black Messiah as if it was the product of some 24-hour immaculate musical conception.

Some 72 hours on from that release, however, concrete info about the album’s personnel, production and ultimate release is filtering out, mostly in the form of tidbits revealed here and there by members of Team D’Angelo (D himself has not commented publicly since the release and true to mysterious form, did not attend his own listening session). That team comprises our own Questlove (who played on all but two of the album’s final cuts); Alan Leeds, D’s legendary tour manager (also listed as an executive producer on the album); Jocelyn Cooper (co-founder of Afropunk, inked D’s first deal back in ’93 and handles all of his publishing to this day); Kevin Liles (longtime manager and former Def Jam exec); the band credited on the LP cover as The Vanguard (more on them below); and last, but not even close to least, the two-man wrecking crew comprised of Russell Elevado and Ben Kane (the album’s chief sound engineers.)

Of all those (okay)players, it’s been Elevado, Kane and (naturally) Questo who’ve really stepped into the void of info that was left in the wake of D’s resurgence, filling us in with some of the most intimate details of the album’s recording, its release and what to expect from this point on (in Questlove’s case, detailed in a late-night soul-purge right here on the Okayplayer boards). So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile some of the most compelling tidbits from, into one little cheat sheet for all of the D’sciples, a project we think of as Black Messiah: The DVD Extras.

Below you’ll find a collection of Questlove’s most relevant commentaries from the boards, as well as Elevado and Kane’s own musings on the album they devoted the last 15 years of their lives to. You’ll be introduced to the loose roster of tight musicians that goes by The Vanguard, when the album began tracking, some of the politics that played into the release, as well as personal accounts from both engineers. Now, listen. This will by no means answer all your questions. But if you refuse to be left in the dark about how this musical mammoth lumbered into the public eye, then this will at very least cross a few of your most burning questions off the list. And fear not, the ceremony won’t be coming to an end anytime soon (as Quest hinted at in his message board AMA) and we’ll be sure to update our little cheat sheet as new details surface.

If you’re looking for an even more intimate breakdown of the album, go ahead and follow Ben Kane on twitter as he takes you into the madness track-by track as part of his 12 days of D’Angelo campaign. We’re at Day 4 now, so it’s time play catch-up, kids. Also, if you’ve somehow yet to catch the spirit (though I don’t see why you’d still be reading otherwise) go and cop the internet-killing digital copy on iTunes stat and preorder the 2-LP vinyl before they’re all out. You can also jump back to hear some of the musical inspiration for the record straight from D himself.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah, The DVD Extras:

Black Messiah IS James River, so don’t expect a James River white label anytime soon:

This album is James River. He changed the title cause he was miffed y’all knew the title. – Questlove 

– The Vanguard comprises:

D (‘Angelo), Pino (Palladino), Jesse (Johnson), Sharkey  (forgetting Jill’s guy on keys) Might be (Jon) Blackwell, or maybe Chris Dave comes back Kendra Foster (forget the other two cats who sing background.) Me and Roy are the only non active members. – Questlove 

– But Q-Tip played a much bigger role than the writing credit on “Sugah Daddy” might first suggest:

Welp, of the 14 years, there were 4 years that we didn’t speak. So i’ll say Tip was D’s co-pilot more than anything. I mean these songs are powerful, but JESUS the 4 Tip songs that had me losing sleep? THOSE JOINTS?!?!?! jeeeeeeeze. Tip was there for the lyric structure, not just for beats. Tip might be onto something as a songwriter. – Questlove 

– Tracking for BM/James River began while Voodoo tour was still under way

He started tracking in 2000 during voodoo. So the ONE thing we can establish with Dangelo is his utter disregard of time. Be it release dates, be it prompt for shows, be it quantized meter or be it musical references; its his sound. – Questlove 

– There were 70 rough tracks laid for Black Messiah/James River

70 tracks in total. 23 could be OMFG territory with some “sprucing up” I assure you that you gonna get way more music in the next year. I won’t be touring, but I’ll still build the show with him. – Questlove 

– “Ain’t That Easy” has both D and Sharkey on guitar. 

“Ain’t” was fleshed out with D’s own amazing guitar work. Soon accompanied by more D licks and Sharkey on an additional killin  guitar. It is the first time you’ll hear the vocals of Kendra Foster, Ahrel Lumzy and Jermaine Holmes on the gang sections. Let me not forget the drums of the one and only James Gadson! Legendary! (look him up) You’ll be hearing him on a couple other tracks.-  Ben Kane

>>>Click Thru for More Black Messiah ‘DVD Extras’

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