Born Angela Laverne Brown c. 1965 in Columbia, SC; married Rodney C. (a rap musician), c. 1985; divorced; children: (with Rodney C.) Diamond Brown, (with R&B singer D'Angelo) Michael D'Angelo Archer II. Addresses: Record company--J Records, 745 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10151. Website--Angie Stone Official Website: http://www.angiestoneonline.com.
Dubbed the "new soul queen," singer-songwriter Angie Stone earned her title after years of hard work, emotional pain, and productive soul-searching. Her solo debut, Black Diamond, and follow-up, Mahogany Soul, were both highly regarded. Though she experimented with rap and R&B, Stone eventually returned to her first love--soul. "I've deviated from soul music, tried to keep up with what was going on, flavor of the month," Stone admitted in an interview with Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly. "Did not work for me." The music industry followed her lead: "I think I was one of these people you can say was before her time," she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "But I think [the record industry has] begun to run out of fads and realized that it's time to go back to music with some depth to it."
Like other artists of the neo-soul genre that developed in the late 1990s, Stone blended R&B and gospel, and then blended the mix again with contemporary hip-hop flavor. While such platinum-selling artists as D'Angelo, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige, Maxwell, and Jill Scott dabbled in this new-soul blend, "no single album during this neo-soul movement has embraced the soul experience as fully as Angie Stone's Mahogany Soul," wrote Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn. "Where her contemporaries salute the legacy" of soul music "in occasional tracks, Stone is so immersed in the soul tradition that you feel the spirit of the masters in almost every number."
Stone was born Angela Laverne Brown in the mid-1960s in Columbia, South Carolina, the only child of musical parents. Her father, a taxi driver, performed in a local gospel quartet. Stone herself started singing and writing poetry when she joined the First Nazareth Baptist Church choir of the when she was "knee-high to a duck's tail," she recalled in her J-Records online biography. She used to sing the songs of Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield in the mirror as a girl and taught herself how to play keyboard. A talented basketball player, Stone was ranked number one in South Carolina for free throws and number two for assists, she said in an interview with Newsweek. Though she was offered several basketball scholarships, Stone turned down college and moved to New York City to pursue a career in music. "I had a natural love for the game, but the thought of trying to become an artist was more challenging," Stone told Newsweek. "My character is to chase things I'm never supposed to have, so I went for it with everything I had."
While in high school, the gospel-trained soul singer and cheerleader had dubbed herself Angie B. and formed the first-ever female electro-rap trio, Sequence. In New York City, the group signed with the legendary Sugar Hill record label and released the single "Funk You Up" in 1979. She worked several dead-end jobs while trying to cut her first demos. She broke into the jingles business and sang on ad campaigns for Afro Sheen hair products and Budweiser beer.
Stone had her first child, daughter Diamond, during her brief marriage to rapper Rodney C. in the mid-1980s. She worked as a backup singer and saxophone player for popular rocker Lenny Kravitz on his Let Love Rule tour. She then was a lead vocalist with the soul trio Vertical Hold, whose 1993 debut album, A Matter of Time, produced the top 20 R&B hit "Seems You're Much Too Busy." Artists such as R&B singer Mary J. Blige, female group SWV, Solo, and Malik Pendleton count songs Stone penned for them among their repertoire.
R&B singer-songwriter D'Angelo, whom she considers "a musical soulmate," according to her online biography, entered Stone's life while she was working as a backup singer for him. She cowrote and coproduced his platinum 1995 debut album, Brown Sugar. The two had a son, Michael D'Angelo Archer II, in 1997. By the 1999 release of Stone's debut, Black Diamond, on Arista Records, the couple had split, though D'Angelo collaborated with her on the track "Everyday," and the two remain close friends. Being known as D'Angelo's "baby-mama," or mother of a star's child, focused media attention and increased the pressure on Stone. "I spent a lot of time defending myself," Stone said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "My life was such an open book.... A lot of people thought I was bouncing back from heartbreak."
Stone has referred to her weight--which is more than that of a typical R&B diva, but considered by some critics to be a refreshing change--as one reason for their breakup. She has suggested that the media and those close to D'Angelo may have convinced him a more slender woman should be on the arm of an R&B superstar. "A lot of what happened with us stemmed from outside pressure," Stone revealed in an interview with Vibe. "At some point in everyone's career you begin to hear the roar of the crowd." Despite the pressures, Black Diamond sold more than one million copies, was nominated for a Grammy Award, and won two Soul Train Lady of Soul awards. The album's hit single, "No More Rain (In This Cloud)," featured samples of the Gladys Knight and the Pips' heart-wrenching hit, "Neither One of Us."
If Black Diamond was seen as a breakup album about pain and loss, Stone's sophomore release, Mahogany Soul, boasted songs that are "testimony to the power of love when things get tough," wrote critic Jon Pareles in the New York Times. Though she had been with Arista since the label discovered her singing for D'Angelo, Stone was invited by label-head Clive Davis to start his own label, J Records. "When I encountered Angie, it was clear she was going to be a pathfinder," Davis told Heart & Soul magazine. "She had a creativity that was clear to see. She's moving soul music back to its roots." Stone had more control over this album and wrote and produced it, revealing a "more refined, mature soul album," wrote Joseph Patel in Vibe. She "dishes out realness with a side of dignity, righteousness, and self-respect," wrote critic Tomika Anderson in the Source.
"Wish I Didn't Miss You," built on a sample from the O'Jays' "Backstabbers," and "Bottles & Cans," which Hilburn suggested is evocative of Al Green, are songs of tempestuous romance. "Time of the Month" may be the first gospel song about premenstrual syndrome. While a battle of the sexes was being waged between male and female hip-hop acts, Stone chose "Brotha," a refreshing and positive take on African American men, as the first single off her new album, because, she told Entertainment Weekly, to counter the venomous tide coming from other women in music, "somebody has to balance the scales." Remixes of the song include vocals by rapper Eve and Alicia Keys, and the song's video includes footage of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, and an appearance by rapper and actor Will Smith. Though label-mate Alicia Keys was the subject of all the media hype for her multiplatinum release Songs in A Minor, Stone's Mahogany Soul did just as well on the Billboard charts, tying Keys for third-best album of 2001.
Stone found another romantic match in singer Calvin Richardson, with whom she sings a duet on Mahogany Soul's "More Than a Woman." In addition to raising her own two children, Stone formed the mentoring company, StonePro. "I want to become more involved in discovering, educating and grooming young artists," she told Heart & Soul. Ultimately, she sees herself as a minister. Though she has not attended seminary school, "I'm just a minister of soul music," she told Heart & Soul. "I feel like God has shaped and fashioned me to do just this--soul music.... I always knew God had something in store for me, and He is the reason why I've maintained."
by Brenna Sanchez
Angie Stone's Career
Formed rap trio Sequence, c. 1977; group signed with Sugar Hill label, released the single "Funk You Up," 1979; sang on ad campaigns for Afro Sheen and Budweiser; worked as a backup singer and saxophone player for Lenny Kravitz on his Let Love Rule tour; lead vocalist for Vertical Hold, which released A Matter of Time and produced the top 20 R&B hit "Seems You're Much Too Busy," 1993; songwriter for Mary J. Blige, SWV, Solo, and Malik Pendleton; cowrote and coproduced D'Angelo's Brown Sugar, 1995; released Black Diamond, 1999; released Mahogany Soul, 2001.
Angie Stone's Awards
Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist--Solo, and Best R&B/Soul Single--Solo, both for "No More Rain (In This Cloud)," 1999.
- Billboard, November 3, 2001; November 10, 2001.
- Daily News (New York), November 4, 2001.
- Entertainment Weekly, January 18, 2002, p. 35.
- Heart & Soul, December/January 2002, p. 66.
- Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2001, p. 3.
- Newsweek, November 18, 2001, p. 66.
- New York Times, November 10, 2001.
- Paper, December 2001, p. 104.
- People, November 5, 2001.
- Source, December 2001.
- Time Out New York, November 15-21, 2001, p. 46.
- Vibe, March 2002, p. 124.
- "Angie Stone," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 24, 2002).
- Additional materials were provided by the J Records publicity department, 2002.