D'Angelo's song "Brown Sugar" is not an ode to a dark-skinned woman, but it's a love song to marijuana, very similar to the topic of Rick James' song "Mary Jane
," which is also about his love for marijuana. In 2005, D'Angelo pled guilty to marijuana possession.
Nikki - Chicago, IL
Soul singer Angie Stone was involved in a relationship with D'Angelo at the time of the recording of this track. She contributed to several other tracks on the Brown Sugar album and was the inspiration for this song. D'Angelo, however, walked out on her a few days after she had his son. Despite the hurt, Stone still appreciates her former partner's talent. She told the Guardian newspaper in 2004: "Whatever has happened between us, I love D'Angelo's music. His song 'Brown Sugar' is very special for me because that has a rare innocence about it. If Marvin Gaye is the king of soul music, D'Angelo is the prince."
The song came about by accident while D'Angelo was noodling around on the piano while the engineer was fixing a computer problem. "At first, it sounded like intermission music," Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the track's co-producer, told Wax Poetics in 2010. "But then he started playing this chord progression, and I stopped and looked at him. Even he wasn't aware of what exactly he was playing, he just had his hands on the keyboard. When I asked him what he was playing, he said, 'Nothing'." Luckily, Muhammad was recording the "nothing" and within the next fifteen minutes, he was programming a beat, and D'Angelo was adding bass over the chords and throwing in some lyrics of what would shortly become "Brown Sugar."
"It was like it was too good to be true, because that song came out of twenty minutes and a mistake," Muhammad added.
Though the song would become the album's lead single and earn Grammy Award nominations for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B song, the label was not happy with the track. "You have to realize, at the time, nothing else had that sound," producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad said. "EMI kept insisting that the song was too raw and needed to be finished. I admired the brains and musical knowledge of [EMI A&R man] Gary Harris, but he was another one who kept saying he didn't think that 'Brown Sugar' was finished. It was cool that we were later nominated for the Grammy, but what is cooler to me is the fact that 'Brown Sugar' was the spawn of a new movement. That song has a different texture and feel than everything else on that album."
This was featured on the TV drama New York Undercover in the 1995 episode "The Highest Bidder." It was also used in the 1996 comedy A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, starring Martin Lawrence.