D'Angelo's Timeless LP "Voodoo" Dropped 15 Years Ago Today -- Celebrate By Reading Questlove's Rare, Recently-Unearthed Tour Diaries
Greatness only gets better with age. Fifteen years ago, as the world shivered in the cold of a blustery new millennium, a sonic masterpiece appeared. An instant-classic record that would change the shape of r&b and hip-hop for decades to come. D'Angelo dropped his long-awaited second LP Voodoo 15 years ago on this day, making good on all the promises of his sprawling talents with an album born out of his assiduous songwriting, versatility as a musician, power as a bandleader and deeply tender nature.
It's those last two qualities that have kept Voodoo so necessary. From the grimy stomp of "Chicken Grease" to the aching shiver of "One Mo'gin," from the skull-kicking of "Devil's Pie" to the pensive prayer of"Africa," the album is much more than one man's work. It is a record made by a top-caliber collective. D'Angelo's greatest victory was to bring together a supporting cast of the world's best players and producers and let them do their thing. Questlove's drunkenly perfect snare, Pino Palladino's cooly vicious bass, Roy Hargrove's minimalist horn arrangements and C. Edward "Spanky" Alford's ornate guitar--these are the sonic voices that make Voodoo a collective roar. With D'Angelo's ear and J Dilla's mind for messy, inventive rhythms pointing the way, Voodoo's musicians pushed each other out toward r&b parts unknown. The album's 13 tracks are the document of those travels, and for so many young artists they're still the signposts that point the way.
The playing on Voodoo never ceases to satisfy. A decade and a half later we're still finding new pitch-perfect bass fills in "One Mo'gin," still humming Charlie Hunter's "Spanish Joint" guitar solo in our heads. But the album's musical essence is without a doubt its ecstatic fucking-up of tempo and rhythm. D'Angelo's confidence to inject space into Voodoo's grooves and encouraging of Questlove to drop his kick drum further and further off the beat gave the album its signature fractured clatter, a laid-back conviction that teases us with every swung quarter note. Like almost everything in D'Angelo's career, the beat on Voodoo shows up late but also right on time.
Ultimately though, solely groovy music, no matter how inventive, wouldn't have the staying power of Voodoo. And although it's a sexy album for reasons that definitelydon'tneedexplaining, sultry desire isn't what's made the album a classic after 15 years. For all its hard beats and sharp guitar lines, Voodoo is soft in the middle--it's an album powered by love, longing and our basic human need to connect with another. On tracks like "Send It On"; "One Mo'gin"; "Greatdayndamornin'" and "Untitled," Voodoo shows itself as a tender masterpiece, soft for all its swagger, crying out for the comfort that only love can give. Its closing track takes it even further, reaching back toward the past in hopes of finding the strength needed to face the future.
A decade and a half later, some things have changed and some are just the same. D'Angelo is once again riding high off an epic sonic document, but whereas Black Messiah aches for a better, fairer world, Voodoo yearns for a better life, shared with a loved one. Right now musicians--some of whom played on both of these records--are getting ready to follow D'Angelo as he tours the world, and fifteen years ago they were doing the very same thing. Voodoo's live tour was a legendary show, a searing exposition of funk in the new, young millennium. The shows were brash, loud, and grueling, with each on-stage moment measured down to the millisecond.
Backed by Questove on drums, Palladino on bass and the newly-minted Soultronics band to his left and right, D'Angelo blew the roof off of venues across the globe. To honor that tour and Voodoo's 15 years of greatness, Okayplayer has prepared a very special treat for you and yours. We've unearthed Questlove's and tour manager Tina Farris very rare tour diaries--personal notes that he kept throughout the entire album tour as he, the band and D razed stages in the name of Voodoo. And to sweeten the deal, we've added photos culled from deep in the Okayplayer/D'Angelo archives. So cue up "Playa Playa," turn the page and simply enjoy. 15 years and it still feels so, so damn good.
@?uest / 01-Mar-00 / 01:22 PM
well, it's day number 1. i love trouble. it clearly states that i
will be docked if i am late for soundcheck or anything. so being
the risk taker i am i have 3 minutes to get my tail to
soundcheck. i will write a proper entry afterwards.
@L.A.'s SOOOO my City / 02-Mar-00 / 07:03 AM
2. Opening Night A La Hollywood
Oh yeah, L.A, sun fun & Baywatch .. .with a pinch of D'Angelo in
some leather pants . . .shirtless. Sometimes things manage to
hurt your eyeballs - sunsets, lunar eclipse, the little pelvic
area that Mr. 'Angelo reveals, tauntingly . . . hate 'em. The
power of that man. Garbrielle Bouvywhatever, Chaka Khan, Tracey
Bingham, Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, Dr. Dre . . .wait a minute .
. . .DR.DRE? Oh yeah, w/wifely talking about "you've improved
our marriage. " the man improves marriages y'all. Music,
banging . . .?uestlove got thunderous applause, James Poyser,
Kelo on sounds . . . that crew sounds vaguely familiar. In any
event, it takes the L.A. crowd a bit longer than most to stop
thinking they're cute and actually get into the music. This
group is such a loving, open group, it's almost a shame to call
it work. Though, that'll probably last about as long as it takes
for someone to ask me to get them a beer! I'm sure there will be
more celebrity freaks to come . . . it's only Wednesday . . .
@?uest / 02-Mar-00 / 02:17 PM
3. First Night @@@@
celeb watch: -chaka khan -garcelle bouevas (jamie fox show)
-traci bingham (black babe from babewatch) -tommy davidson
-jamie fox -kitten (porn starlet) not bad at all for the
first night. d is so funny. i mean he shows such confidence when
onstage. but 3 hours before a nigga had the runs talkin bout.
d: yo nigga, i don't feel like doin "untitled" ?: man if you
think that they gonna let you go without doin that. pshhhh!!!!
d: but, it's like my voice gonna be strained and all... ?: but d
if we do the anti-climatic version we'll be straight. d:
but...what do we say? ?: i mean, just pull a jawn from the
audience...and freak her... d: i know but what should i say?!?!?
?: i don't think you have to say much. just i dunno nigga you
d'angelo!!!!!!!! i should be askin you!! d:........sigh well
we did 3 hours that was probably our only fault. d was so nervous
that he forgot to end the songs, and some of those babys are on
some high adrenaline charlie horse gettin shit. anyway, i was
having spasms and shit yellin "nigga end the song already!!!!
nigga end it already!!!!!!" man it was intense. when we did "shit
damn...." the audience was stunned, i ain't gonna tell you why.
you'll have to see...."TAKE IT OFF!!!! TAKE IT OFF" we felt like
chippendales and shit. anyways i got a 3 paragraph
limit.........so til the next show.
@tinyteanie / 02-Mar-00 / 08:17 PM
4. I Copped The Digits
FOrget D'Angelo, forget ?uestlove, forget James Poyser . . . L.A.
the city that means anything goes, where even James Poyser, mack
that he is, did NOT and I repeat DID NOT get the digits of
Baywatch Babe Traci Bingham, however, what mackazoid did? yes
me. the fact that she wants to fuck D'Angelo probably had
something to do with it, but hey, who doesn't. 10%! Who's the
pimp now Common. By the way East Coasters, no I'm not gay, it's
just L.A. More in tuned for tonight. I hear Whitney & Bobby
Brown have a table. Perhaps my high will be set for the night.
See ya later!
@tinyteanie / 03-Mar-00 / 11:53 AM
5. "Hey Tina . . .Remember Miami? . . . The Limo . . . .?"
reminds my (?uestlove & D's) ecstatic porn-star friend Kitten . .
.this is her second night at the concert. She and her work
partner could have only been upstaged by Tyra Banks, her equally
beautiful friend/assistant, Q-Tip - who's a rude ass, David Allan
Grier & Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine. However,
the evening started when we all had the pleasant and wonderful
treat of meeting D'Angelo's son , Michael. Cutey Patutey is all
I have to say. He's quite a shorty. He went into his dad's
dressing room . . . "15 minutes 'til show time!" ?uestloves's
getting a massage, we're getting cymbal endorsements, tangy
scents of "stuff" mixed with Nag Champra (is that how it's
spelled?) fill the air . . something from probably some rock show
documentary. "?uest, get up . . .5 minutes" Chiropractor puts
his table up, we handshake on the the NEW ?uestlove cymbol
endorsement .. .and then . . . it happens . . . . D' comes
through the adjoining bathroom door, pants slightly unbuttoned
[is he wearing underwear?, I'm thinking], he looks around the
room, does his make-you-wet-yourself lip-licking thingy, you know
the one he does, and says "what up Tina?" Wha-wha . .
."What'cho doin' D' . . .are you sagging?" "What?" he says in
that mischevious smile that we all love "Untitled" for .. . I nod
towards his seeping butt crack peering from his leather (yeah,
leather) pants . . .he comes to hug me laughing . . .[oh the
affection] I say, "Boy, you gon' hurt somebody" Sometimes work
is just too hard . . . watch the sexy lips! watch the sexy lips!
Anything else as exciting as that? Only during the show where he
rips off his shirt [and no, tonight I did not start the "Take It
Off" chant of the previous night ["TINA we aren't doing that 'til
LATER" yells ?uest. "I know, but we were all hot and bothered
THEN . . .there you men go again, telling us what WE want when WE
want it"] The women . . .I cannot be a hater, L.A. has
beautiful people, tons, in all shades and varieties. California
Girls, I tell ya! And then there are the men groupies flocking
to pick up the women groupies. Hilarious. These girls dress like
they're meeting D' . . .tonight. You think men can be boisterous
and cat call? Shhhhhiiiiiit, come to a D'Angelo show. .
.Feminists are going to be pissed . . .but the view is FANTASTIC!
**** updated on Mar-3 - 12:53 PM
@tinyteanie / 03-Mar-00 / 11:53 AM
6. Oh Yeah, I Forgot . . .
All props to Shaka in Brooklyn, designer for Common, and now
?uestlove . . . the crowd goes WILD when ?uest stands up, turns
his back, and there's his signature afro cartoon embroidered in
his shirt! He's the bomb if ya didn't know. I think tonight
I'll start the "Take It Off" for ?uest . . . hehehe
>>Many more Voodoo tour diary entries are coming in the near future. Stay tuned and keep rocking to the beat, D'Angelo fans.