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D'Angelo "Voodoo" Album Review


Last week, Voodoo by D'Angelo turned 23. A Neo-soul staple blending funk, jazz, blues and soul, D'Angelo carved a sound reminiscent of a jam session. The sound on the album has the polyphonic thickness of live music running throughout it. He slides on every track effortlessly, each track dripping in liquid gold. His vocals range between lush falsettos and syrupy smooth baritones.

The production on Voodoo drew the blueprint for many Neo-soul records that came out after it, alongside other classic albums of the genre. The record is made up of syncopated bass lines with licks of funk and jazz, jiving trumpets and smooth and steady drum loops courtesy of Questlove. It is majorly self produced with the exception of a couple legendary credits. The vinyl scratching on 'Devil's Pie' by DJ Premier between samples gives it more of a hip hop feel. Q-Tip's funk-fuelled production on 'Left And Right' makes it the perfect soundtrack for a kickback. The dreamy co-production on 'Untitled (How Does It Feel)' between D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq gives it this wonderful, romantic aroma - the perfect recipe for a slow jam. It's also worth noting that the production on 'Spanish Joint' stands out with its salsa rhythm and guitar straight from Brazil.


While D'Angelo's Voodoo has been sampled many times by producers of today, such as Flying Lotus and Knxwledge, let's take a dive into what samples and interpolations have helped made this album as smooth and sweet as molasses. On 'Playa Playa', the hook is originally from the song 'Player's Balling (Players Doin' Their Own Thing)' repeating the first line of the Ohio Players original song over and over again.


Buckle in for the next one, 'cause the star of the Belly soundtrack, 'Devil's Pie' has not one but seven samples. That trickling, chopper-like sound effect is from 'Jericho Jerk' by Michel Colombier and Pierre Henry. That funk-twanged bassline is from 'And if I Had' by Teddy Pendergrass. You can hear the 'Mmm' off of 'Wu-Gambinos' by Raekwon and Ghostface Killah feat. Method Man, Masta Killa and RZA. This song will make another appearance on the interlude of the track, where you can hear vinyl scratching as the track runs through an array of fragments from various rap songs. "Let's cut the pie five ways" from 'Wu-Gambinos' is chopped and transitions into 'Off the Books' by The Beatnuts feat. Big Pun and Cuban Link. The "Check it out" comes from 'INI' featuring Pete Rock by Fakin Jax. "Mark of the beast" is a lyric from 'The Big Daddy Anthem' by Natruel, Shabazz the Disciple, Wicked Will and Mr. Eon featuring. L-Fudge. Fat Joe's vocals from his song 'Success' are sampled as you can hear him spit, "This how it be in this everlasting game". Producer, DJ Premier's skills as a DJ really shine through here, creating this stratosphere of hip-hop samples that elevate the song's soundscape.


On 'Left & Right' featuring Method Man and Redman, Method Man interpolates a bar from Eric B. & Rakim's My Melody, the original lyrics are 'Drop the mic when I'm finished and watch it smoke', Method Man's alteration became 'Drop that ass when I'm finished and watch it smoke'. Eric B. & Rakim are interpolated again on 'Chicken Grease' where D'Angelo references 'I Know You Got Soul', changing the lyrics ever so slightly from 'But I wait, 'cause I mastered this / Let the others go first, so the brothers don't miss' to 'But I'll wait 'til I've mastered this / Let the others go first so the brothers won't miss'. You can hear the melody from a pocket of 'Get on the Mic' by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth on 'Feel Like Makin' Love', which is a cover of Roberta Flack's original hit record. The drums on 'Africa' are a sample straight from Prince's 'I Wonder You' and they're looped throughout the track.


The themes on Voodoo vary from the different emotions and tribulations that life has to offer. On 'Devil's Pie', D'Angelo reflects on how the allure of sins in society can be malignant as he sings "Drugs and thugs, women, wine Three or four at a time / Watch them all stand in line / For a slice of the devil's pie". 'The Line' tackles suicide and approaching death, though through some ofthe lyrics such as "Say, I've got a bullet in the chamber / And I'm not afraid of danger" it can allude to the theme of suicide being used in a metaphorical sense. 'Send It On' serves as a dedication to D'Angelo's son, what's being sent on is unconditional love. 'Feel Like Makin' Love' and 'Untitled (How Does It Feel)' are two gems on the album that highlight love and romance exceptionally well.

'Left And Right' is the only track on the album with features. The addition of Redman and Method Man give the track hard hitting bounce and vibrance. Redman's verses are punchy and gritty, while Method Man's cadence is smooth and suave. Their adlibs later on in the track combined with D'Angelo's vocal stacks give the song busy vocal texture, akin to the buzz of a party.


Just like his debut Brown Sugar, Voodoo will forever remain a timeless classic. The seductive Soulquarian's slick sonics have set the tone for the Neo-soul and R&B artists of today. The record feels spiritual, full of mystical ambience. From the snares and cymbals to the grooves of jazz and blues help shape it into this sweet, funkadelic listening experience.

 

Review by Kat Friar

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