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I called Virgin Records, D’Angelo’s label, to ask about its release date. After being referred to several publicists (none of whom returned calls), I finally spoke with one receptionist who told me bluntly, “D’Angelo was dropped last summer.” She said it was part of restructuring. Confused, I turned to Google, which led to Billboard Magazine, which published news last July that the R&B star had been signed to J Records, the home of Alicia Keys and American Idol graduates Fantasia and Ruben Studdard.I discovered that Leeds, had affirmed the rumor at the end of September.Guys like Anthony Hamilton, his friend and former backup singer, discussed the new record as a point of fact while in Richmond in early April, though he added he hadn’t heard it himself.Even the online encyclopedia Wikipedia — not necessarily a model of consistency — carries rumor of the new album, calling it by the relatively prosaic working title James River.Not bad for a preacher’s son who forged his vocal talent singing in church and high school choirs.That said, he’s the last guy who’d slap down tracks just to pick up a few bucks.
His lawyer, Ned Mikula, helped that decision along by begging leniency for the singer, insisting he was bolting straight to Nashville to begin work on a follow-up to Voodoo. Proof that D’Angelo never made it to Music City USA was lying in a downtown hospital bed.This was the same guy who issued a statement after the wreck that read, “[D’Angelo] is anxious to finish the recording of his soul masterpiece that the world has patiently awaited.” He added, strangely, that a similar wipeout had done wonders for Kanye West.