(The Root) – Like many people, I waited so long for D’Angelo’s new album that I stopped waiting. Its title, Black Messiah, partly mocks the idea that any artist—even the so-called R&B Jesus—could warrant such anticipation. But it’s also about something greater: the problem of waiting for messianic leadership from “on high” and the current refusal to wait for justice. A work of urgent and insurgent funk, Black Messiah is perfectly pitched to a moment when traditional appeals to power have given way to loving acts of solidarity and hard-dancing demands.
D’Angelo explains that the title Black Messiah is not about him: “It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. … It’s not about praising one charismatic leader, but celebrating thousands of them.”
So while his title clearly plays on Isaac Hayes’ Black Moses, his album cover features not the solitary artist but a group of protesters with open hands and raised fists. D’Angelo himself comes armed with a group he calls the Vanguard: Questlove, Q-Tip, Pino Palladino, James Gadson and Kendra Foster.