It’s been close to a week since the surprise release of D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s Black Messiah, enough time for the formerly distorted lyrics of D’Angelo to become more clear and significant. The easiest tone to take with Black Messiah, in its entire majestic roar, is that it’s an album rooted in the black experience — of struggle, survival and love.
For an album that leads with a Brown Sugar sliding weed metaphor and closes with reflection, plucking memorable lyrical mementos from D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s latest is therapy. Expect any of these verses from D’Angelo and co-writer Kendra Foster to wind up as late night texts that are blind to consequence and discovery.
Below are the 10 best lyrics from Black Messiah.
10. “Another Life” (Verse 1)
Fully convinced he’s ready to walk back into love, D’Angelo quips in the opening line, “How does one attempt to be, the kind of friend you would want to keep?” One first date may start the cycle all over again, but this time D’Angelo’s ready to breathe, and enjoy himself.
9. “The Door” (Verse 1)
The folk whistle and guitar licks of “The Door” show out heavily here, detraction from the severity of the song’s message, a break up. “Don’’ lock yourself out that door” echoes throughout but the opening stanza feels like a set up for a list of pros and cons resulting in the end.
8. “Betray My Heart” (Verse 2)
“Betray My Heart” find D’Angelo speaking on self-love, an aspect that Black Messiah approaches in terms of a whole body deciding to make itself singular. He’s no longer about to backtrack and apprehend himself: “You, my soul can depend on me.”
7. “Prayer” (Verse 2)
“Prayer” may be the most straight-lined moment on Black Messiah. It’s gospel to the bone, asking for deliverance. D’Angelo understood the bleakness of the world on “Till It’s Done.” Now he just wants to be free of it: “Keep me away from temptation, deliver us from evil.”
6. “Til’ It’s Done (Tutu)” (Verse 1)
Most have wanted to declare Black Messiah a closer relative to Voodoo than Brown Sugar. “Til’ It’s Done (Tutu)” fits somewhere in a different area, the angered place where “1000 Deaths” roared but more folksy, questioning it all until we leave. Key line here: “tragedy flows unbound and there’s no place to run, ’till it’s done.”
5. “Back To The Future” (Verse 2)
On the surface, “Back To The Future” is a send-up The Roots & J Dilla‘s “Dynamite” from 1996’s Things Fall Apart. A Soulquarian to the bone, D’Angelo leads The Vanguard right down the same road, kicking up his Richmond, VA roots and even jokes about certain fans caring more about him physical shape than his mental one.
4. “Really Love” (Verse 2)
Love is all about the art of letting go. It’s about understanding your own faults and edges and wanting them to be smoothed out by someone who gets them. “I’m not an easy man, to overstand, but girl you’re patient with me,” is where D’Angelo lands on “Really Love,” a simple love song almost ripped from the book of Stevie Wonder.
3. “The Charade” (Verse 1)
“Crawling through a systematic maze to demise, pain in our eyes… wading through the lies,” are fifteen of the first eighteen words of “The Charade.” You’re supposed to clap, sway and dance to “The Charade” because it feels breezy and free. There’s pain here, a stated sense of being fed up watching wool being tossed over our eyes.
2. “1000 Deaths” (Verse 3)
“1000 Deaths” screams through pumped bass about recognition. Malcolm X’s opening speech dictating the track’s every move. It’s third verse, packed with prayer to God for strength (“he don’t want no coward soldier”) and given purpose (“I was born to kill”), the wails of awareness about life.
1. “Ain’t That Right” (Verse 2)
Confidence is something D’Angelo never lacked, even when he knows you can’t let him go. The opening chords of the winter’s warmest ounce of soul music start in anger and swell with him playing oracle. “I offer you the truth, you need the comfort of my lovin’ to bring out the best in you.”