The Power Of 'Voodoo' - Children Of Zeus On D'Angelo's Masterpiece
D’Angelo is a true artist, someone who isn’t concerned with constructing product, or obtaining chart positions – everything he wants, everything he seeks is down there on record, solidified on tape.
Released 20 years ago this month, the neo-soul god’s ‘Voodoo’ project stands as one of his most acclaimed albums. A defining record in that creative nexus that spanned the Soulquarian universe, it’s creative exhibition found the American artist at his most ambitious, and most daring.
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Manchester’s Children Of Zeus have long cited ‘Voodoo’ as a primary text in their songwriting outlook, an album that has inspired their hip-hop leaning neo-soul diversions. Speaking to Clash, they are unequivocal in their praise of D’Angelo and his work. “I would say it’s the greatest album of our generation,” Konny Kon tells Clash. “Definitely nothing since has topped it for me personally since it came out.”
Re-visiting ‘Voodoo’, it’s remarkable how fresh the album remains. Ruggedly future-facing in its approach, those sessions at Electric Lady Studios in New York – which once housed prime Soulquarian influence Jimi Hendrix – used some of the very best talent available, all working in their prime.
DJ Premier assisted on production, Raphael Saadiq had a prime role, while frequent visitors ranged from Erykah Badu and Q-Tip through to Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Ultimately, ‘Voodoo’ is marked by a determination to speak its own truths, on its own terms.
“I think the balance of being able to sing songs about love, pain and lust without compromising the masculine elements you’d associate with being an MC is something that’s always been hard to balance,” observes Konny Kon. “It’s not soppy. There’s no slick dance routines or shininess that you might see with a lot of soul / R&B acts from that era. It’s soul music that hip-hop heads will appreciate.”
“I don’t think any thing has come out since that I’d put in the same envelope,” he continues. “Neo-soul for me turned to bad Dilla rip off style production, for the most part.”
“If anything only the greats from the 70s make me feel the same way. There has been some great neo-soul but I think - although maybe an obvious choice - only Erykah did it as well as D’Angelo.”
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The great tragedy surrounding ‘Voodoo’ of course is that its supreme success seemed to spark D’Angelo’s retreat from the public gaze. It took almost 15 years to craft a follow up, in the form of 2014’s masterful, raw, deeply personal ‘Black Messiah’ full length.
“I saw him live around the time ‘Black Messiah’ came out,” Konny Kon recalls. “Now I’ve said before I couldn’t quite get into ‘Black Messiah’, it’s abrasive and not as soulful… maybe I wanted more ‘Voodoo’ but I understand it’s not my place to demand what an artist I love goes onto do.”
“That said, that concert… next level amazing! I didn’t get to hear all my favourites, and I’ve listened to enough live D’Angelo concerts on YouTube to know he sometimes will hardly do any of the original versions of songs he’s made, but I left that show blown away. He did a little something off all three albums. I wish I’d seen him when he was touring ‘Voodoo’ though.”
For Children Of Zeus, ‘Voodoo’ remains a creative seed, something to return to, allowing fresh inspiration to grow in the process. It’s a perennial source of inspiration, something that connects them to like-minds across the globe.
“I recommend it to everyone all the time,” Kon finishes. “I know people prefer ‘Brown Sugar’ but ‘Voodoo’ is executed better for me. But listen to all three of his albums. Every one is as good as anything within the soul music world.”
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