Skip To Content

    21 Things You Probably Didn't Know About D'Angelo

    The elusive prodigy opened up last night in Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York.

    1. D’Angelo started playing piano when he was 3.

    2. In high school, he was in a rap group called I.D.U.

    3. But we can credit his pop career as we know it to Ellis Marsalis — in a way.

    4. D’Angelo has respect for the “heavy metalhead” scene around his hometown of Richmond, VA, which produced bands like Lamb of God and Slipknot.

    5. When he was about 17, D'Angelo won Amateur Night at the Apollo with Johnny Gill's "Rub You the Right Way."

    View this video on YouTube

    He scored first place on his second trip to the legendary competition. The first time, he played a gospel song and got booed.

    6. On another NYC trip, D’Angelo almost messed up his first big industry meeting by going to the bathroom a million times.

    When he was 17, he came to New York to meet with Jocelyn Copper, the head of publishing company Midnight Music. "I was hell bent on walking into this meeting with a suit," he said. "I bought brand new church shoes and everything." But he had to excuse himself from the meeting a bunch of times to go to the restroom to take off his shoes — his feet were killing him after walking around the city all day.

    7. D’Angelo wrote “U Will Know,” the 2004 song by Black Men United, an all-star collective that included Brian McKnight, H-Town, Lenny Kravitz, R. Kelly, Usher, and some 20 other artists.

    View this video on YouTube

    D'Angelo said he hadn't heard the song in years, but remembered all the words when it was played.

    8. Then he wrote and demoed the entirety of his 1995 debut album, Brown Sugar, by himself, in his bedroom.

    9. A year later, Madhouse, the Prince side project, brought Questlove and D’angelo together.

    10. D’Angelo taught Questlove the force.

    11. But Questlove did not executive produce Voodoo.

    12. Voodoo opener "Playa Playa" was originally written for the Space Jam soundtrack, but didn't end up making the cut.

    13. D’Angelo doesn’t want to talk about that big GQ profile.

    14. But he's happy to give props to musicians he respects. His favorite hip-hop producers are J Dilla, DJ Premier, and Marly Marl.

    15. And he loves The Beatles.

    16. And he knows Sly Stone is using Auto-Tune these days.

    17. Not all rules apply to D'Angelo.

    18. And these days, D’Angelo records his vocals in a cave-like teepee.

    19. If D’Angelo wasn’t a musician, he might be a pastor.

    20. Right now, he’s even got a secret gospel quartet group.

    View this video on YouTube

    They performed at a church somewhere “way up in the woods” last year. They played a song by the Pilgrim Jubilees, which the crowd loved, and ended with a cover of Fishbone’s “Properties of Propaganda,” which the crowd sat down for.

    21. Ultimately, D’Angelo said he doesn’t make Christian, neo-soul, or funk rock. He makes black music.