I feel like I’ve read a half dozen variations of this “D’Angelo’s back” profile in GQ over the years, but beyond the usual rise/fall narrative, quotes about the singer’s shyness and updates on his physique, this one offers a substantial progress report on a new album. It’s tucked away near the end of the piece:
Russell Elevado, D’s longtime engineer, told MTV Hive that D wanted to finish his album “as soon as possible, but once he gets into the studio he gets into his own zone…. Altogether there’s over fifty songs that he’s cut since we started. I think he wants to put twelve songs on the album.”
Questlove tells me the same thing. “To get five songs out of him, we had to throw away at least twelve that I would give my left arm for,” he says. “I don’t mind that, because I literally feel he is the last pure African-American artist left.” Still, as weeks pass, Questlove admits, “My first fear was him not doing this at all. Now my new fear is, okay, the tour is over. Now what?”
For nearly a month, D mostly holes up in his apartment on the Upper West Side. Jenkins comes by regularly to sweat D in his private gym. He fasts for a few days, and the weight is coming off, but it seems D is headed back into his pre-tour cave. Only music persuades him to go out. Late in February, after he and D go to see Björk together, Questlove addresses a tweet to the Icelandic artist, saying, “amazing job last night. even d’angelo was mind blown & he leaves the house for NOBODY.”
So when will he release his new album? D can’t say for sure. His managers and his label are pushing hard for September, before the Grammy deadline. But nobody’s banking on it. Sounding like a man who’s all too familiar with D-time, Tom Corson, RCA’s president and COO, says simply, “This year would be nice.” In mid-April, D and his band are back in the studio, this time in Los Angeles, supposedly adding the final touches. But everything hinges on D letting the music go.