D'Angelo was one of the founding fathers and leading lights of the neo-soul movement of the mid- to late '90s, which aimed to bring the organic flavor of classic R&B back to the hip-hop age. Modeling himself on the likes of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Curtis Mayfield, and Al Green, D'Angelo's influences didn't just come across in his vocal style -- like most of those artists, he wrote his own material (and frequently produced it as well), helping to revive the concept of the R&B auteur. His debut album, Brown Sugar, gradually earned him an audience so devoted that the follow-up, Voodoo, debuted at number one despite a five-year wait in between.
Michael D'Angelo Archer was born February 11, 1974, in Richmond, VA, the son of a Pentecostal minister. He began teaching himself piano as a very young child, and at age 18, he won the amateur talent competition at Harlem's Apollo Theater three weeks in a row. He was briefly a member of a hip-hop group called I.D.U. and signed a publishing deal with EMI in 1991. His first major success came in 1994 as a writer/producer, helming the single "U Will Know" on the Jason's Lyric soundtrack; it featured a one-time, all-star R&B aggregate dubbed Black Men United. That helped lead to his debut solo album, 1995's Brown Sugar. Helped by the title track and "Lady," Brown Sugar slowly caught on with R&B fans looking for an alternative to the hip-hop soul dominating the urban contemporary landscape; along with artists like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell, D'Angelo became part of a retro-leaning, neo-soul revivalist movement. Brown Sugar received enormously complimentary reviews and sold over two million copies, and D'Angelo supported it with extensive touring over the next two years.
And then -- not much of anything happened. D'Angelo took some time off to rest and split acrimoniously with his management; meanwhile, EMI went under, leaving his 1998 stopgap release Live at the Jazz Cafe out of print. On occasion, D'Angelo contributed a cover tune to a movie soundtrack, including Eddie Kendricks' "Girl You Need a Change of Mind" (Get on the Bus), the Ohio Pla