Her music is raw, honest, always real. Just as straight ahead is her attitude to that music. A lyrical poetess of the first order and leader in the neo-soul movement, Angie Stone lays it on the line, no-holds-barred: "I don't go for the trendy commercial approach. What I do is basic soul music - no frills added."
The international record-buying public found that out when they turned Angie's 1999 platinum debut "Black Diamond" into a critically acclaimed global best seller, spurred by the success of "No More Rain (In This Cloud)," a major pop and R&B hit single. That Angie would continue to keep it real was without question: what the eager audience she created discovered was that this multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer's last work, MAHOGANY SOUL went even deeper lyrically than its much-loved predecessor.
The song titles tell it all: "Pissed Off," which like many of the other tunes on the album, is based on Angie's experiences in life, love and relationships; and "Brotha," the first single, a positive, uplifting anthem that lauds the strengths and qualities of black men.
"I was reaching out for a certain freedom of self-expression on my second album. I went into making it with the attitude that it would be better than my first album, that it would still have the sensibilities of old school soul but with more of a street edge," says Angie. Working with a cast of producers that includes Raphael Saddiq, Warryn Campbell, Gerald Isaac, Eddie F., Ali Shaheed Muhammed, and Eran Tabib, Angie masterminded the direction for MAHOGANY SOUL: "It was about setting the tone for whatever I wanted the album to be. I worked with some great people but my thing is, if we're gonna work together, you have to understand where I'm coming from. Whatever you're doing production-wise has to coincide with what I'm saying musically and lyrically."
STONE LOVE: THE VERY BEST OF ANGIE STONE
Drawing on the influences of soul ancestors like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway - three of the artists who inspired her during her formative years - this first ever Greatest Hits collection is filled with the kind of tell-it-like-it-is musical statements that have made Angie Stone a pioneer in the realm of today's black musical griots. Starkly honest "What You Dyin' For" has a serious message for "young people who get suicidal over silly stuff, like a bad relationship. I'm saying, 'It's not about giving up your life just because things don't go right.'"
Where Angie Stone has come from is a tradition of great gospel-rooted singing and music-making and where she finds herself now is on the cutting edge of inspired creativity: " There's a natural high, a rush of adrenalin that I get when I'm writing, recording, producing…"
Getting to the place where she could experience the range of her creative skills took a moment for the Columbia, South Carolina-born songstress. Hailing from a musical family ("my father performed in a local gospel quartet"), Angie was exposed to great gospel groups and joined the choir of the First Nazareth Baptist Church "when I was knee-high to a duck's tail. I've been singing and writing poetry ever since."
Listening to R&B legends like Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Hathaway, Gaye and Mayfield and performing their songs in the mirror in her bedroom, a teenaged Angie was destined to pursue a career in music even though at one point, "I was offered a few basketball scholarships to college…" A self-taught keyboard player, Angie took what she calls "a lot of dead-end jobs" to raise the money to make her first demos.
After a stint with a local trio that led to her first experience as a recording artist, Angie contributed her burgeoning songwriting skills to "Baby Cries," a track cut by Prince protégé Jill Jones. The word was out and Angie soon found herself working with futuristic rappers Mantronix and superstar Lenny Kravitz, at one point playing sax in his band. By the late '80s, she had formed the trio Vertical Hold, whose A&M 1993 debut album "A Matter Of Time" achieved critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, in part as a result of the Top 20 R&B hit "Seems You're Much Too Busy."
In addition to collaborating with Mary J. Blige, Solo and Malik Pendleton, Angie was a key musical collaborator on D'Angelo's platinum-plus 1995 debut album "Brown Sugar," working on several tracks with D'Angelo, whom she describes as "a musical soulmate." The talented singer-songwriter was one of the luminaries who contributed to BLACK DIAMOND, Angie's auspicious 1999 Arista debut album, collaborating with her on the track "Everyday."
With rave reviews from media pundits and critics across the world, BLACK DIAMOND also included guest appearances by longtime musical friend Kravitz and former A Tribe Called Quest member Ali Shaheed Mohammed. Tracks like Angie's own "Bone 2 Pic (Wit U)," and standouts like "Life Story" were embraced by a record-buying public hungry for a slice of homemade funk and soul that hearkened back to the traditional R&B of the '70s. By using a sample of the Gladys Knight & The Pips' hit "Neither One Of Us" on the beautiful "No More Rain," Angie brought young and old soul music audiences together.
"I had been preparing for years and by the time "Black Diamond" started to take off and "No More Rain" hit, I was ready for the world," she recalls. "It took me a long time to get excited about what was happening. I worked very hard and I felt comfort in a spiritual way once people started getting into my music. I was grateful to God for the blessings and," she says, "when I received two Lady Of Soul Awards (in 2000), that was a turning point. The acceptance of the crowd that night was overwhelming. It was like they were saying, 'it's about time, you've earned it.'"
Balancing the demands of being the single mother of a young son and a teenage daughter, Angie hit the road and performed on shows in late 1999 and throughout 2000 with a variety of different artists. Getting to perform and be in the company of legends like Ron Isley, Maurice White and Charlie Wilson (of The Gap Band) was "amazing for me. Those people paid their dues and paved the way for artists like me so it was a real honor to have them respond to my music…"
A hectic year included a European tour that gave Angie another highly emotional experience: "Having people not of my race embracing me as a human being and my music was overwhelming. It made me cry with gratitude and made me determined that I would work twice as hard on my second album."
That hard work is evident throughout MAHOGANY SOUL which fittingly includes a beautiful brand new Andrea Martin song, "I Wish I Didn’t Miss You," which includes a sample of The O'Jays' "Backstabbers." For me, it's about not watering down but using the roots of gospel and R&B.”
STONE LOVE: THE VERY BEST OF ANGIE STONE
Love, indeed, and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. The result is an amazing album that reinforces Angie Stone's emergence as a one-of-a-kind, passionate, honest and remarkable artist who is carving her own niche in the world of contemporary music. Ain't no doubt, in the realm of new millennium soul sisters, Angie's the real thing. This is a must have for any musical collection.