“One time I got mad when a female threw money at me onstage, and that made me feel fawked-up, and I threw the money back at her,” he says. “I was like, ‘I’m not a stripper.’ ” He was beginning to sense a darkness beckoning. He recalls a particular moment onstage at the North Sea Jazz festival in 2000. The band was in the middle of “Devil’s Pie,” his song about the spell fame casts upon the weak—Who am I to justify / All the evil in our eye / When I myself feel the high / From all that I despise—when he felt an ominous presence in the crowd. “That night I felt something that was like, whoa,” he tells me. E-vil.
On the last day of the eight-month tour, Questlove says D’Angelo told him, “Yo, man, I cannot wait until this fawking tour is over. I’m going to go in the woods, drink some hooch, grow a beard, and get fat.” Questlove thought he was joking. “I was like, ‘You’re a funny guy.’ And then it started to happen. That’s how much he wanted to distance himself.”
D’Angelo on battling his substance abuse during his hiatus:
“I didn’t really think I had a problem like that,” he says, taking a hit off a Newport. “I felt like, you know, all I got to do is clean up and I’ll be fine. Just get in the studio and I’ll be fucking fine.”
…on his arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover officer:
“It was just me making a stupid decision, a wrong turn, on the wrong night. I’m not the role-model motherfawker. Look at all the isht that I’ve been in.”
D’Angelo’s Connection To Marvin Gaye:
Later, when I reach Janis Gaye, Marvin’s second wife—and a longtime D’Angelo fan—I tell her about the dreams D had of Marvin, and she isn’t surprised. Her own children dreamed of Marvin on the night he was killed, and D is just a few years older. “Marvin is a protector, and I’m sure there was something in Marvin’s spirit that saw something in D’Angelo’s spirit,” Janis says. I tell her about Rock’s stern admonition that D needs to step it up, and she agrees. She even has a suggestion: “He should go to Marvin’s Room, the studio that Marvin built,” she says of the famed studio on Sunset Boulevard where Gaye recorded many of his hits. “Go in and take his fifty songs. Not to sound kooky or out there, but Marvin will help him to choose.”
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Photo credit: Gregory Harris/GQ