Poplife Pick: "Brown Sugar" (1995)
By the mid-'90s, most urban R&B
had become rather predictable, working on similar combinations
of soul and hip-hop, or relying on vocal theatrics on slow
seductive numbers. With his debut album, Brown Sugar, the 21
year-old D'Angelo crashed down some of those barriers.
D'Angelo concentrates on classic versions of soul and R&B, but
unlike most of his contemporaries, he doesn't cut and paste older
songs with hip-hop beats; instead, he attacks the forms with a
hip-hop attitude, breathing new life into traditional forms. Not all
of his music works - there are several songs that sound
incomplete, relying more on sound than structure. But when he
does have a good song - like the hit "Brown Sugar," Smokey
Robinson's "Cruisin'," aor the bluesy "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker,"
among several others - D'Angelo's wild talents are evident.
Brown Sugar might not be consistently brilliant, but it is one of the
most exciting debuts of 1995, giving a good sense of how deep
D'Angelo's talents run. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music