Angie Stone proudly claims the role of musical griot, offering apt social commentary...
Keysha Davis 2002
Every so often an album comes along which bulldozes itself into the hearts and consciousness of music lovers globally. A few years ago Lauryn Hill's - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill received an unprecedented onslaught of public adoration, music industry awards and masses of critical acclaim from notoriously hard-nosed music journalists. A few months ago Alicia Keys was given similar status - hailed as the new princess of soul following her groundbreaking debut Songs in the key of A minor. Well once again, be prepared to be blown away, as we are invited to take a journey with vocal powerhouse and orator of truth - Angie Stone. Back after a three year hiatus, Ms Stone delights, tantalises and educates with her unforgettable trademark of grease dripping, finger lickin, homemade soul.
Angie Stone: she of the big hair, bigger voice, black lipstick and retro styling, has never really achieved the media attention she duly deserves but has steadily built up an impressive rooster of fans grateful for her uncompromising 'warts an all' approach to music. This element is refined further on the disc, with Stone proudly claiming the role of musical griot, offering apt social commentary on the lives and times of a modern day 21st century black woman. Taking influence from concept albums of soul greats such as Marvin Gaye & Curtis Mayfield, Mahogany Soul is presented like an emotional charged soundtrack with all of life's pain, love ambiguities and joyful splendour thrown in equal measures.
The first single (and probably the most poignant) "Brotha" counteracts what seems like centuries of black male bashing from head swivelling, lycra wearing divas as Angie softly coaxes the fragile ego of the black man as a mother would a child. Far from being elitist, this song hails even the so-called socially deviant members of society such as hustlers who perch on street corners. Although this may not appear to be the most PC thing to do, Angie's lyrics nonchalantly shrug their shoulders while proclaiming - hey, they are human too! And this is the most refreshing aspect of the album: it's determination to tell the truth and nothing but. This linear is found on a variety of tracks including "Pissed off" which kindly articulates into song, life and relationship anxieties that we face on an everyday basis. Similarly "If it Wasn't" is a humorous take on the internal threats and insults directed at a partner for not doing right. "20 Dollars" will bring a smile to those who have ever had to face the burden of dependent siblings and friends frequently borrowing money without returning it. However blunt; the tough talking Angie always returns to her lush lyric'd alter ego who has a penchant for profound romantic declarations. Take the desperate plea of "Bottles and cans": 'I'd rather be picking up bottles and cans if I can't be your woman&I'd rather be facing 20 to life, if I can't be your wife.' These starry-eyed proclamations also continue on "More than a Woman" and "The ingredients of love" which encapsulates the emotional roller coaster feel of the entire album.
Listeners are advised to sit back and let the whole of this CD play from start to finish without pressing the skip button. Accompanied by raw, soulful, percussion based instruments (yet again, another throwback to the 1970's) this one will certainly withstand the test of time and be up there with all the other legends. Let the hype machine begin!