Yesterday was particularly trying in the office. The learning curve for an editorial gig has been fast and steep, especially with a team as smart and an output as potent as found at this magazine. While furiously tapping away at blog posts, feature stories, email drafts and HTML code (often at the same time), I'd spent much of the morning humming Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" to my own masochistic amusement (and Alex and Deidre's dismay). But when I remembered I'd be seeing D'Angelo speak at the Brooklyn Museum that evening, courtesy of the Red Bull Music Academy, I almost instinctively began mumbling the chorus to "Devil's Pie" - an absent minded, whistle-while-you-work reflex. The bouncy, back-and-forth blues chorus seemed designed to get you through a 3pm slump, not to mention the hook, Watch us all stand in line, for a slice of the Devil's pie, conjuring images of corporate rat races and long lines to punch in and clock out. I hadn't actually listened to the song in months, but on this hump day, its slurred syllables and looping melody made the workload feel less heavy.
Hours later, Nelson George asked D'Angelo about "Devil's Pie" largely out of the blue: till then, they'd spent much of the talk discussing D's early years in Richmond, VA, and music-nerd curiosities about mentors and milestones, like James Mtume coaching him through fits of writer's block and his first time at Amateur Night at the Apollo. They hadn't touched on any of his landmark singles, let alone an album cut from the Belly soundtrack I happened to have stuck in my head. "Was ‘Devil's Pie' written as a blues? What was the inspiration behind it?" George asked innocently, and the lighthearted talk turned slightly dark. "The spirit of the vocals is more like a chain gang," D commented flatly. "Or, a field of slaves, where they were picking whatever bullshit massa had us picking." The room was hushed, the soundman hit play, and the potent record filled the room.