Published Dec 17, 2014Within the last week, D'Angelo shocked the music world by announcing and then promptly releasing his endlessly delayed Black Messiah. Now, it turns out that the enigmatic soul singer initially planned to put out the album in 2015, but he pushed up the date in response to the race-related protests that have taken place in the U.S. in recent weeks.
D'Angelo's co-manager Kevin Liles told the New York Times that the singer phoned him on November 24 after a grand jury ruled not to indict police officer Darren Wilson over the killing of Michael Brown. "He said: 'Do you believe this? Do you believe it?'" Liles explained. "And then we just sat there in silence. That is when I knew he wanted to say something."
This meant bumping up the release date, and the team at RCA Records apparently spent numerous all-nighters in the past month hammering down things like the tracklist and album artwork. By the time a listening party took place this past weekend, some label employees still hadn't heard the album.
Studio engineer/mixer Russell Elevado revealed that they put the finishing touches on the music just three weeks ago. They've been working on the album on-and-off for more than a decade, and he explained, "We've been close for the past two and a half years."
It was recorded entirely in analogue, which slowed down the process and increased the cost. They ultimately used around 200 reels of two-inch tape. There were more than 20 songs in contention for the album, and this was cut down to 12 tracks for the final product.
Getting the album ready so fast was an impressive feat: while most surprise releases are digital-only (à la Thom Yorke or Beyoncé), Black Messiah CDs were available in stores the same day as the iTunes rollout.
That being said, the planned lyric sheet wasn't done in time, so it will have to wait until the vinyl release on February 10 (you can pre-order the vinyl version here). D'Angelo apparently isn't a fan of the font on the album cover, but there was no time to fix it. Similarly, he wanted an illustration from Black Panther Party designer Emory Douglas for the artwork, but there was no time to commission an original piece.
Still, even if D had to cut a few corners, it's probably for the best that he opted to rush the release. Had he taken his time, who knows when we actually would have heard it.