When he wrote and recorded his instant-classic debut Brown Sugar, D'Angelo was just old enough to legally drink. But as the opening title track makes clear, this is a smoker's soul record. It gracefully strides down the long aisles of black American music, incorporating gospel call-and-response on "Higher," blues songwriting on "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker," and traditional rhythm and blues by translating Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin," but the album is unmistakeably of its time: 1995, when Hype Williams was one of the hottest music video directors and popular R&B was meant to boom from your jeep. "Lady," of course, satisfies both of those demands. It's the song to spark one to, and then pass it to your crush.
Brown Sugar turned 22 this summer and, to honor that milestone, the album is being remastered and reissued as a "deluxe edition," featuring a whopping 21 remixes, instrumentals, and a capella tracks. You can check out three of the remixes below, including "Cruisin’ (Who’s Fooling Remix)," "Brown Sugar (Incognito Remix)," and "Me and Those Dreamin' Eyes of Mine (Two Way Street Remix)." You can buy the deluxe edition here.
In the liner notes, the critic Nelson George writes that "re-visiting the songs on this debut album, along with the alternative versions and remixes, it is clear that Brown Sugar opened doors for a wave of artists and recordings that have become anchors of black music." He goes on to mention artists who steered the ship during the 2000s, including Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott, and Alicia Keys. In 2017, the new anchors of black music, especially in R&B, are artists like Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Rihanna, Ty Dolla Sign, Miguel, and, of late, SZA. But the same threads you can chase from D'Angelo to Badu to Hamilton extend to Miguel, SZA, Ocean, and others. This music is eternal.