D'Angelo is a multitalented, soul-singer studied in the art of groove, croon and swoon and emerged in the mid-1990s as one of the few male vocalist/songwriters to perfect the hybrid of hip-hop and R&B often referred to as "neo-soul." His two classic album Brown Sugar and Voodoo are considered two of the oeuvre's finest and follows in the sultry soul traditions of Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and Prince.
The son of a Baptist preacher, D'Angelo began experimenting with keyboards around the age of three. In addition to playing church music on Sundays, D'Angelo spent much of his childhood mimicking artists such as Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, James Brown, and Prince. At 17, D'Angelo rocked the crowd on Amateur Night at the Apollo with an energetic rendition of Johnny Gill's "Rub You the Right Way" and won $500 — most of which he used to purchase a four-track recorder. At his mother's house he began writing and recording much of the material that would constitute Brown Sugar (Number 22 pop, Number Four R&B, 1995) — a collection of afro-tantric grooves that featured D'Angelo playing virtually all of the instruments. The title track "Brown Sugar" (Number 27 Pop, Number 5 R&B, 1995), "Cruisin'" (Number 53 pop, Number Ten R&B, 1995), and "Lady" (Number Ten pop, Number Two R&B, 1996) all enjoyed chart success and radio rotation.
D'Angelo disappeared from the pop limelight for a few years in the late-1990s, making scattered cameos on albums by Lauryn Hill, the Roots, and Method Man. D'Angelo resurfaced with the highly anticipated Voodoo (Number One Pop and R&B, 2000), featuring appearances by Roots drummer Ahmir-Khalib "?uestlove" Thompson and jazzmen Charlie Hunter and Roy Hargrove. Merging the worlds of hip-hop, jazz, and down-home funk, Voodoo yielded the hit "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" (Number 25 pop, Number Two R&B, 2000).
The singer has been out of commission since Voodoo during which time he was convicted of alcohol and drug charges and suffered a serious SUV accident. He continued, however, to make guest appearances on albums by J Dilla, Roy Hargove's jazzy hip-hop group RH Factor, Snoop Dogg, Common and Q-Tip.