On her U.S. solo debut Black Diamond, veteran singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Angie Stone deftly blends a classic soul vibe with contemporary grooves to deliver some startlingly personal, penetrating lyrical insights.
Stone herself produced much of the album, including the single “No More Rain (In This Cloud),” which uses its title’s metaphor to outline an exhausted relationship while sampling the distinctive melody line of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ ‘70s hit “Neither One of Us.” The album also features contributions from former Tribe Called Quest member Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Lenny Kravitz and Stone’s frequent collaborator (and former paramour) D’Angelo, who co-wrote and sings on “Everyday.” The South Carolina-bred Stone broke into the music business as a teenager as part of the female trio Sequence, whose seminal 1980 hip-hop hit “Funk You Up” helped lay the groundwork for the R&B/rap hybrid that would become popular in the ‘90s. Stone subsequently recorded as lead vocalist of the acclaimed ‘80s R&B act Vertical Hold, and built an impressive behind-the-scenes resume, writing songs for Mary J. Blige, Mantronix and Prince protege Jill Jones, and serving a stint playing sax in Kravitz’s band. But her most prominent extracurricular credit is her work with D’Angelo, co-writing eight tracks on the rising soul star’s 1995 debut album Brown Sugar. The buzz surrounding Black Diamond makes it clear that Stone’s heartfelt blend of old-school soul and contemporary grooves has struck a responsive chord, and the artist couldn’t be happier. “I’m trying to do it my way, for once,” Stone recently told Vibe. “Every song I’ve written comes from a place deep within me. I didn’t want to hold back or bite my tongue.”