Born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of a Pentecostal minister, he taught himself piano as a child. At eighteen he won the amateur talent competition at Harlem's Apollo Theater three weeks in a row. After a brief affiliation with hip-hop group I.D.U., his first major success came in 1994 as the co-writer and co-producer of the song "U Will Know".
His debut solo album, Brown Sugar (1995), received positive reviews and sold over two million copies. His next album, Voodoo (2000), debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. Its lead single "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," entered the R&B charts and won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal; likewise, Voodoo won for Best R&B Album. D'Angelo was hailed as the next Marvin Gaye by GQ in 2014.
Following the release of the video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," D'Angelo became more uncomfortable with his growing status as a sex symbol. This was followed by numerous personal struggles including alcoholism, and a fourteen-year musical hiatus. D'Angelo released his third studio album, Black Messiah, in December 2014. The album was met with critical acclaim and fared well on music charts, peaking at number five on the US Billboard 200. D'Angelo also contributed to the soundtrack for the 2018 video game Red Dead Redemption 2, performing the song "Unshaken".
D'Angelo was born Michael Eugene Archer, in Richmond, Virginia on February 11, 1974, to a Pentecostal preacher father. He was raised in an entirely Pentecostal family. Archer's musical talents were discovered very early on. At 3, he was spotted by his 10-year-old brother Luther, playing the house piano. Following the formation of his native-Richmond, Virginia musical group, Michael Archer and Precise, and its success on the Amateur Night competition at Harlem, New York's Apollo Theater in 1991, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist dropped out of school and moved to New York City, as an attempt to develop his music career. The group previously enjoyed some notice in Richmond, evenly dividing their repertoire between soul covers and originals, while D'Angelo accumulated compositions of his own and developed his songwriting skills. The group's turnout on Amateur Night resulted in three consecutive wins and cash prize, after which, upon returning home to Richmond, D'Angelo was inspired to produce an album and began composing material, after a brief tenure as a member of the hip hop group I.D.U. (Intelligent, Deadly but Unique).