Soul singer Angie Stone has always impressed fans of soul music as a true talent by the generation that preceded her and the neo-soul artists that have followed her. Quite simply, she’s the real deal as an artist. Stone has sold over 10 million albums worldwide and she has also worked as an actress in several films. She’s had three Grammy Awards nominations and has worked with D’Angelo, (with whom she has a teenage son); Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige and Lenny Kravitz to name a few. She’s currently scheduled to go on tour in mid January 2016 until October 2016. We decided to revisit our vaults and came up with this gem from WORD back in the day. Enjoy!
Angie Stone is one busy woman these days. In fact it took several tries to connect with this certified soul diva on the telephone in a brief interview to discuss her new album, Mahogany Soul.
With her 1999 album, Black Diamond going platinum, solidifying her reputation as one of the most talented members of the neo-soul movement, she’s finally getting long overdue props for her artistic talents.
A successful international tour powered by a major hit single, “No More Rain (In This Cloud),” and two Lady Soul Awards in 2000, became a watershed moment in a career that began at age 15.
“Having people not of my race embracing me as a human being and my music was overwhelming,” says Stone, who it appears to have caught off guard by her huge success and the pressures of the music industry. “You’re never really ready,” she admits.
Stone’s tell-it-like-it-is approach in her music and in our phone conversation has been hard won. Growing up in South Carolina she explains “being a dark-skinned girl, you had to work twice as hard to be accepted.”
She discovered a love for singing and writing poetry at an early age. Her father was a member of a local gospel quartet. Surrounded by music, she practiced her craft, singing at the First Nazareth Baptist Church, “when I was knee-high to a duck’s tail.”
On the home front, it was music of soul legends — Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson that were constants in her life. For Stone, they became huge sources of inspiration.
Stone reveals that she worked many dead-end jobs in South Carolina, saving money so she could record her own demo at a local studio named PAW.
Acceptance, however, became harder to achieve, especially after she became a mother. Stone speaks candidly about losing the petite figure she once had and how she struggled with its consequences.
“I was a size 7/8 when I first started; when I gave birth to my children you lose it,” says the mother of a teenage daughter and a young son.
Stone continued her pursuit of stardom, winning critical acclaim for an album, A Matter of Time, released by a group she formed named Vertical Hold in the early 90s.
Later she went to work with Mantronix, Mary J. Blige, Lenny Kravitz and D’Angelo, whom she describes as her “musical soulmate.” Stone became a key collaborator on D’Angelo’s ground-breaking multi-platinum album, Brown Sugar on which she co-wrote several songs. D’Angelo would later return the favour helping to pen “Every Day” on her solo debut album.
D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar also ushered in a new era of soul music, with new artists such as Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott offering a refreshing alternative to much of Black pop.
What does Stone think about the state of Black music today?
“The music lacks substance, lacks truth. It’s bubble gum,” she says.
As for her latest album Mahogany Soul, Stone says she was up for the challenge. “I went in making it with the attitude that it would be better than my first (solo) album,” she says.
She enlisted a stellar cast of producers including Raphael Saddiq, Warren Campbell, Gerald Isaac, Eddie F, Ali Shaheed and Eran Tabib. Still, Stone leaves no doubt about who is in control.
“I worked with some great people but my thing is, if we are gonna work together, you have to understand where I’m coming from.”
The results are vintage Angie, showcasing her soulfulness, her excellent songwriting skills and her musicianship. “I use keyboards, no synthesizers, you know,” says the self-taught keyboard player who played sax in Lenny Kravitz’ band at one point in her career.
In our interview Angie Stone is a woman of few words, however, listening closely to Mahogany Soul, you begin to understand the joy and the pain of Stone’s life. “My songs are self-explanatory,” she says, matter-of-factly.
There are songs like, “Twenty Dollars” and “Time of The Month” that speak about the personal emotions; spiritual songs, like “Life Goes On” and “Making of You” and respect songs like “Brotha” (a song that pays homage to brothers). There are also songs with lots of edge such as “Bottles & Cans” and “Pissed Off.”
Angie Stone has finally arrived at a point in her life where she’s getting the love and respect she deserves. It is even sweeter when it comes from the likes of Ron Isley, Maurice White and Charley Wilson – legends who love her music. It has taken time to get there, but if the last two years is any indication, Angie has finally found acceptance and redemption.
What’s important to her in life now? “Spirituality is the root.”