One day after D’Angelo revealed he and his band the Vanguard would release his new album Black Messiah – his first LP in 14 years – in the near future, the idea of the neo-soul singer putting out music again still seemed difficult to fathom. However, with a Black Messiah listening party scheduled for Sunday night, D’Angelo has provided proof that his new studio album is on the horizon: A new single called “Sugah Daddy,” which the singer provided to Red Bull’s 20Before15 series.
“He is about to take a radical 180 turn with this record,” Questlove told Rolling Stone of D’Angelo’s new album in June 2012. “It’s going to throw people off the same way that Prince’s Dirty Mind threw his R&B fanbase off. In the past few years, he’s discovered Bowie and Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Pet Sounds, Captain Beefheart and Zappa.”
Despite the influx of new influences, D’Angelo fans will be happy to know that he still makes music that is uniquely D’Angelo’s: The brassy, funky “Sugah Daddy,” which fully employs the singer’s trademark falsetto, would slide comfortably on the back half of his neo-soul classic Voodoo.
“I respect [the term neo-soul] for what it is, but anytime you put a name on something, you just put it in a box,” D’Angelo said in May. “You want to be in a position where you can grow as an artist. You never want to be told, ‘Hey, well, you’re a neo-soul artist.’ Right now, I’m not. We’re going someplace else.” “Sugah Daddy” is more of an update on his neo-soul sound than a redefinition.
“Sugah Daddy” is only D’Angelo’s second studio song since he released Voodoo in 2000; another non-album cut called “I Found My Smile Again” accompanied his The Best So Far… in 2008. Live performances of “Sugah Daddy” date back to 2012, when D’Angelo’s long-awaited record was still tentatively titled James River and “99 percent” finished. Black Messiah‘s creation was so long in the works, Red Bull evens cracked Detox and Chinese Democracy jokes in their press release announcing the arrival of “Sugah Daddy.”
Since the beginning of December, Red Bull’s 20 Before 15 series have been offering up exclusive tracks from artists and Red Bull Music Academy collaborators like Lil Herb with Earl Sweatshirt, Dengue Dengue Dengue and Elliphant with Mø. Each day, the first 1,000 people who visit the site get to download the day’s track for free. After that, the track is then offered up only as a stream.