Last Friday night, Williamsburg's Converse Rubber Tracks studio hosted the record release party for Black Messiah, the long-gestating third album from the enigmatic, legendary soul singer D'Angelo. The artist himself didn't end up showing his face that evening, but a number of his friends—Dave Chappelle, to name one—and many of his collaborators were in attendance. In particular, engineers Russell Elevado and Ben Kane took a few minutes to talk with FADER about their work on the album before returning to their most well-deserved celebration.
Elevado has been working closely with D'Angelo since 1995's Brown Sugar; Kane first met D'Angelo and Elevado when he was working as an intern at Electric Lady Studios nearly a decade ago. Elevado said that D'Angelo "wanted to try something without any collaborative input to see how far he could go by himself," so he and Kane were part of a very select few to hear the album's progress over the past 15 years.
So what was it like to learn that the world was finally going to hear Black Messiah? "I don't even know how to describe the feeling," Kane said. "It's something that only three of us have heard—and a couple of others—for so many years, something that so many people have wanted to hear. [We were] a little bit nervous—are they going to love it as much as we love it? But I was mostly excited that people would be able to hear it."
The excitement came only after Kane and Elevado were able to overcome their disbelief, which had been strengthened after a number of false alarms, that the record was actually coming out. Even as Kane and Elevado were tying up some final loose ends before the album's release, Elevado said they were still harboring doubts. "We were preparing to drive out to Long Island and make the vinyl lacquers, and eventually we were like, 'Is this album actually going to come out?' We heard a rumor that they were going to try to get it out [on December 15], which was actually three or four days away, so we called [one of D'Angelo's managers] and asked, 'Can you confirm that it's actually going to be released, let alone earlier than January?'" he recalled. Kane laughed and added: "He's saying we still didn't believe it while we were cutting the lacquer for the vinyl release—that's how much we didn't believe that it would actually happen."
Keep an eye out for more of FADER's conversation with Russell Elevado and Ben Kane and their work on Black Messiah.