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D'Angelo: Did Sex Symbol Status Kill His Career?

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By Karu F. Daniels, BlackVoices.com



It was recently reported in Black Music Notes that D'Angelo has signed a record deal with J Records to release his long awaited third opus this fall.

But many still wonder what the hell was the reason for his near ten year recording hiatus anyway.

Yeah, the Richmond, Virginia native has had his run-ins with the law. But so have many of his contemporaries and fellow musicians.

Some have still managed to contribute to their musical repertoire in between prison stints, legal woes, rehab jaunts and other dubious activities.

But not D'Angelo (real name: Michael Eugene Archer).

His last full length music project, 'Voodoo,' was released Jan. 11, 2000. And he has been virtually absent since the promotion of that masterful platter subsided from radio playlists.

The biggest track from the opus was the sensual Raphael Saadiq-produced single 'Untitled (How Does It Feel?),' which seemed to have taken on a life of its own.

Have some tell it: the sex-charged single and its equally stimulating music video (where the chisel-chested singer/songwriter, arguably, simulated receiving fellatio) is what was the beginning of the end of D'Angelo, who at that time was considered a progenitor of the burgeoning neo-soul music movement.

"'Untitled' wasn't supposed to be this mission statement for 'Voodoo,'" his former manager Dominique Trenier said in the August 2008 edition of 'Spin' magazine. "I'm glad the video did what it did, but he and I were both disappointed because, to this day, in the general populace's memory, he's the naked guy," he continued, even admitting feelings of his own "guilt."



Now being known as a sex symbol is considered a gift to some. Ask Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.

But for the 'Brown Sugar' crooner, who with his career-defining debut album came across as a pudgy piano playing prodigy, it seems to have been the ultimate curse.

"We couldn't get through one song before women would start to scream for him to take off something," recalled in-demand horn player Roy Hargrove, who performed on the groundbreaking album and on the road with D'Angelo. "It wasn't about the music. All they wanted him to do was take off his clothes."

That was a tall order for a man Trenier referred to as not "a sexy dude" but a "real musician who wears glasses and plays video games."

"He'd get angry and start breaking s--t," recollected revered Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson – who is an intimate associate and longtime collaborator of D'Angelo's. "The audience thinking, 'F--k your art. I wanna see your ass!' made him angry."

Since the release of 'Voodoo,' the only record many people know from D'Angelo, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, is a police record.

Here's a run-down:

In January 2005, he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, and driving while intoxicated. He pleaded guilty to the DUI and marijuana charge and, on April 13, was given a fine and suspended sentence and his driver's license was revoked.

On September 12, he received a three-year suspended sentence on the cocaine possession charge.

On September 19, 2005, just a week after being sentenced for cocaine possession, D'Angelo was critically injured in Powhatan County, Virginia when the SUV he was riding in hit a fence, ejecting him from the vehicle. He reportedly was not wearing a seatbelt.

In August 2006, D'Angelo was confirmed to have exited Eric Clapton's exclusive Crossroads rehabilitation stint on the island of Antigua.

On August 10, 2007, he was sent to court on charges relating to a car accident that occurred two years prior. He reportedly pleaded guilty to these charges and was ordered to pay a $1,250 fine, in addition to forfeiting his license for 15 months. He also received a nine-month suspended jail sentence.

"I didn't realize how vulnerable he was and how deep his issues ran," tour manager Alan Leeds told 'Spin.' "He's cursed now with fretting over how much his fan base is because of how he looked as opposed to the music. It took away his confidence, because he's not convinced why any given fan is supporting him."

Deepness.

Things may be looking bright for the father of neo-soul diva Angie Stone's son.

According to his new manager Lindsay Guion, he's on track to finish recording by the end of the month.

That should make the big-wigs at J Records – and countless of D'Angelo's truest fans -- happy.

Until then, an enhanced 'Best Of' collection recently arrived on store shelves via EMI -- boasting digitally-mastered versions of his hits such as 'Lady,' the aforementioned 'Brown Sugar,' 'Cruisin' and the fateful 'Untitled' track. The video clip is even featured on the DVD version of the collection.

So proceed with caution.





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