Recently my friend Gary Harris, who happens to be a former EMI A&R exec, has been criticized and bashed by several fans and other outlets on the web. One who introduced me to the music of D’Angelo back in 1992 prior to it’s release while I was at WBLS, he wrote an open letter to the artist, expressing a personal point of view.
Complex writer David Drake @somanyshrimp and other sites have written stories expressing their view on the letter. They point out how Gary refers to D’Angelo as “a charlatan and a pimp—disguised as a soul man—who has gamed the system out of millions.” The open letter was written from a place of passion and reaction to an interview conducted by Nelson George last week ala npr radio. The session took place in Brooklyn, compliments of Red Bull, engineered via their business dealings with Amir ?uestlove Thompson of The Roots. How do I KNOW this? Amir is D’Angelo’s connection to the outside world and within the music community. He was the go between for D and I when I kicked it with him, for the promotion of his “Voodoo” CD. They’ve been down for years.
Gary also stated that D’Angelo is a “butt naked emperor,” and that he and his collaborators are “attempting to promote a hoax on the public” in his letter. He makes this statement based on the fact that while our beloved D’Angelo has made a few public appearances over the past couple of years, he hasn’t unfortunately produced an album. All artists and people are not alike, the process of producing a record, a song, a sentence is different for every human being. However, in D’Angelo’s case, one would be very hard pressed to site another artist throughout history, in any genre, that continues to maintain a presence, on the precipice of dropping a new CD. Based on the photo above and the context of the interview, one might think that George is a longtime advocate of D’Angelo’s music. The fact of the matter is, Nelson told Gray at the inception of his first project, “I don’t think this guy can write a grocery list, let alone a song.” Fans are constantly waiting with baited breath, myself included, for a new D’Angelo release. My wife expressed, it may have taken every ounce of creative energy he had to produce the two albums that he did. While that may be so, the appearances and periodic forays into the limelight have always given the air of new music, with yet nothing to be had https://museumofuncutfunk.com/2013/07/29/dangelos-funkin-doing-shows/. As I write that last sentence, I’m reminded of my longing of new music from Dr. Dre, but the dynamics are not the same. Whereas Dre. has been consumed with making money elsewhere, D’Angelo has been unfortunately plagued with struggle and misfortune.
Drake says that “Harris is in his attempt to de-mystify the process behind the legacy of an artist widely celebrated as a genius of R&B.” While D’Angelo is absolutely widely celebrated, even by this writer https://museumofuncutfunk.com/2012/01/27/funkin-dangelo-and-van-hunt-are-they-back/— as I posted the interview w/ George on my FB page the day after it took place. I was happy to see him engaging, and with Nelson — I’ve interviewed both of them. Thinking ‘if Nelson is talking to him, maybe this time it’s real, perhaps D’s about to drop some new music,’ but he never even asked him about any. Now let’s define “genius,” and then point out a few — according to the dictionary, a genius is: “an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc…” “Stevie Wonder is a musical genius,” Eddie Murphy once said while giving him props and making fun of the love fans, like himself, have for him. It’s true, he is a musical genius, as is or was Will.I.Am, Jimi Hendrix, Kanye West, Marvin Gaye, Maxwell, Donny Hathaway, Richard Pryor, Prince, Sly Stone and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. Through battles of corporate politics, substance abuse, changes in how music is marketed, personal, emotional, sexual and spiritual conflict, all these men still produced. They still kept their preverbal noses to the grindstone and released music. They honor themselves and the desire of their friends and fans to deliver new music. To move in the same light as a genius, and be referred to as such, one has to BE one. This is merely the pinnacle of what Harris’… my friend Gary’s open letter was all about. The terms “genius” and “icon” are constantly being abused and mis-used. The bestowment of these titles require actual proof, a body of work that substantiates it as well as a presence in any given profession or craft. While we as music lovers all LOVE D’Angelo, and want some new music from him, let’s call a spade a spade at this juncture. Now Gary, more than any writer; fan or outside observer, was there at the inception of Michael “D’Angelo” Archer’s career. He was the corporate establishment that was EMI, as D’Angelo refers to him throughout his interview with Nelson. He was “inside” — Gary’s blog site is called “insideplaya.” This is not a name for a blog to be taken lightly, for Gary has truly been inside of EMI and several other labels throughout his career in music. The open letter he wrote was from an “inside” perspective of what and how things really are and how it is with D’Angelo – He Knows. His words are not from the perception of a fan or a new jack writer that believes he’s all knowing about music because he’s gotten items in VIBE or the Village Voice. His knowledge is not from the outside looking in, so pretty much any other story you read regarding the truth behind the interview or Gary’s position on D’Angelo, will be one of limited to no actual knowledge of what it really is. It’s like the secret society that runs the world, people know it exists, but not how it truly operates. Gary has spoken to D’Angelo as recent as two months ago, D’Angelo reached out to him asking him to co-manage him with Kevin Liles. Then at last week’s interview, he never points out any aspects of how he’s supported his career?
Complex says that Gary professes that he “allegedly included approving the money from EMI to get D’Angelo moved out of his mother’s place when most of D’Angelo’s family—according to Harris—was set against him becoming a musician.” Up yours, if Gary says that’s what it was, then that’s what it was. He may have not included that bit of information if he had sat on his blog for a minute before sending it out, but he didn’t, because Gary is the truth. The piece wasn’t written seeking glory. Gary and D’Angelo have referred to each other as, and consider themselves to be friends, they’ve watched and gone to basketball games together and talk b-ball til’ this day. “Harris also hints at a strong personal relationship with D’Angelo—he describes recent drunken late night phone calls from D’Angelo asking for career help, and mentions making calls to D’Angelo when the singer was in the hospital,” says the Complex item. “Bitch shut the f**k up,” Gary didn’t say this to score points for being sympathetic or write that to fabricate some BS that isn’t true. You’re not “inside” and you sho’ nuff ain’t a playa that really knows who’s who, otherwise you wouldn’t be talking out the side of your neck. Your perception is far from reality, as Gary wasn’t expecting to gain anything from the open letter. When someone said to him, “Be prepared for the backlash,” he responded, “what backlash, who cares what I say, I’m not a public figure.” Gary has been writing his blog since 2008, he had no idea his open letter to “Mike” would have people up in arms, for one we all hold to heart as one of the few that we hope will Bring the FUNK. The feedback and hits he got for the item is the most traffic his site has gotten in six years.
“A brutal attempt at giving the public another perspective on the artist,” is another sentence Drake suggests. It’s not such a ‘brutal attempt’ on the artist, as it was a closer look as to what has transpired. In the open letter, it reads “In light of the recent and deeply flawed funk documentary that he (Nelson) produced for VH-1 where you were claimed to be the future of the funk, I have some thoughts on that too: I grew up on funk, danced to it, bought tickets to shows and collected the records. You are not that funky, your records do not recall the hey day of James Brown, George Clinton and Sly. They are deeply soulful, but not deeply funky.” Gary talks about how he had refused to open up D’Angelo’s budget until the songwriting was up to par: “You didn’t like it,” he expresses directed to D’Angelo, “but you never like it when solid business decisions interfere with your agenda.” Working at a record label is about the BUSINESS of music. Artists are the creators, we don’t get music without them, but the business has to be handled once an artist is signed. Gary signed D’Angelo, and “Brown Sugar” was the result. Consider the gap for D’Angelo’s follow-up record “Voodoo,” that resulted in years of waiting, that D’Angelo points out himself while working at Electric Lady in the interview. During the production of “Voodoo,” Harris was no longer directly involved from a business standpoint. The business of music has always conflicted with the creative process. It’s a record company’s job to produce. I mentioned in my recent blog about MJ’s new CD “Xscape”, that it’s all about the bottom line https://museumofuncutfunk.com/2014/05/24/xscape-the-funkin-posthumous-michael-jackson-album/
Gary has gotten several calls from other former record executives that were active during the time D’Angelo was on the rise, as well as from some musicians that were developing before, during and after D’Angelo came into the fold — several other INSIDERS agree. The science Gary was dropping, although it was personally skewed, was knowledge no fan or writer can buy. The truth hurts — the open letter was not written to draw attention to himself — but to tell the truth. Gary, who has since taken the blog down from his site due to excessive hate mail and accusations that he’s bashing D’Angelo, wasn’t trying to slam him. He was venting, and had no idea of the response that would transpire in this modern day of the Internet. I asked Gary to send me the letter so I could re-post it on this site in it’s entirety, he declined. I wanted to post it because it’s FUNKY, because it does present a different perspective than the all glowing one that the masses have about D’Angelo, mine included. I LOVE D’Angelo, but I LOVE Gary Harris too. I actually KNOW that what he speaks is the truth. How? one may be asking — when I spoke to Gary yesterday, he shared with me that he has since been in communication with both Nelson and D’Angelo. “Bull”, some one reading this may think, he not only relayed the correspondence of the text messages, he played me an apology that D’Angelo left on his voicemail. So, to anyone that may be thinking that Gary was out of line or wrong for feeling a certain way, D’Angelo apologized to him for using poor judgement in his regard. He expressed that he had no malicious intent in not mentioning his name, however, whenever he refers to EMI… he’s speaking of Gary.
WHERE THE OPEN LETTER ONCE LIVED, NOW READS: “Nelson George and D’Angelo – Thank you for showing the good taste that you have in coming to this blog. I truly appreciate your interest in my writing. Sorry if you have come to see something that is no longer here, but indeed it had already served its purpose and then some. Please feel free to peruse and enjoy other writings and posts. thank you, insideplaya.” Hence, Gary means no ill intent towards D’Angelo, but was simply getting something off his chest. That’s what blogs are for, aren’t they — and yes, people have the right to respond accordingly — but, when speaking on what you don’t KNOW, the trail of bu**shit just gets longer and longer. This ain’t no bu**shit, Gary nor I have time to engage in such meaningless acts of frenzy. We are men who have accomplished goals to our satisfaction when it comes to the business of music. It’s too late in the day for bu**shit. Gary writing his open letter, me writing this blog to truly clarify and weed through bu**shit that now lives on the Internet instead of his letter, are acts of passion. He and I genuinely feel obligated to convey the truth, whether you choose to accept it as truth or not, is your choice. Our respective records (no pun intended) and contributions speak for themselves, we have actual proof. “D’Angelo has only released two albums in the past 22-years,” Harris said in his letter. Again, all people are different and have various means of applying themselves, in any given profession. But ask yourself, have you produced more than the equivalent of two albums over the past 22 years. You can’t put a time frame on creativity, but you can damn sure put a price on it, as millions have been devoted to his artistry. Even if you have not been alive or in the work force for 22 years, could you continue to retain a job, a career, a life or a certain level of self respect — If you curve the efforts of your work and efforts, over that span of time? I (as well as Gary) only wish the best for D’Angelo and that he does make another album, if not more.
In FUNK We Trust – I’m done