D’Angelo has always been something of a musical deity, an artists who only really exists in the public consciousness in the form of rare, unannounced album releases and awe-inducing live shows. Add to the fact that he was largely silent from 2000 until 2012, and the man is largely a mystery to an entire generation of fans. On Wednesday night, the veil was pulled back as D’Angelo appeared on Tavis Smiley for his first televised interview in over a decade.
Part one of a two-night conversation, the episode saw D’Angelo and Smiley discuss everything from the singer’s vocal register, his idols like Prince and Curtis Mayfield, and his relationship with the Pentecostal Church. Of course, they also spent time talking about D’Angelo’s latest album, Black Messiah. Smiley asked what the artist was doing in the 14-year gap between records. “I’m always writing and learning,” D’Angelo said. “It’s about growth. I’m growing as a musician, as a guitarist. You never want to be at a place where you feel like you’ve arrived. It’s always an upward incline.”
He also touched upon his fears of coming off as “too preachy” on the record, which he saw as an opportunity to be a black man with a “voice:”
“Black Messiah is, I think, the most sociopolitical stuff I’ve done on record. I think in lieu of everything that’s been going—the sign of the times, right—something needs to be said. There’s so few doing that right now, and that was funny to me because there’s so much going on. The Black Lives Matter movement is going on, young black men and women are getting killed for nothing. I’ve always been a big reader and fan of history, and I love the Black Panthers. … I’m not trying to be like a poster child or anything of the movement, but definitely a voice as a black man—as a concerned black man and as a father, as well.”
Watch part one below via PBS, and stay tuned for part two of the interview. Update: Part two is now available to stream as well.