Simply put, “Devil’s Pie” is a song about selling your soul. It comes from the film “Belly”, which I’ve never seen. But I don’t think you need to see the movie to get to the soul of what the song is about.
No doubt you’ve “sold your soul” before. Part of being a human is the realization that occasionally you’re gonna have to do something you know you shouldn’t do because the end result is going to benefit you and/or someone you love. Specifically as pertains to this particular song, the “devil’s pie” is the almighty dollar. There have been plenty of songs made about the bullshit people do to put a dollar in their pocket (like Divine Sounds’ fantastic ‘80s classic “What People Do For Money”), but “Devil’s Pie” hits harder than most. Maybe because while most people just want a slice of the pie, D’Angelo (presumably in character) is singing “fuck a slice/I want the pie”.
Some of the song’s power might have to do with D’Angelo’s singing, which is staccato and emotionless (at least until the end, when D takes us to church), and some of it has to do with the production, courtesy of DJ Premier (one of the most viable candidates for best hip-hop producer of all time.) Primo didn’t venture into R&B territory very much, but when he did, the results were solid. He and D were a solid match. I wonder why they didn’t work together more.
NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…
“Detachable Penis” by King Missile: My brain is having a field day trying to figure out what to write here. Is the fact that I enjoy “Detachable Penis” as much as I do a sign of my immaturity? Perhaps. After all, in the last forty eight hours, I have texted one of my best friends to inform them that I was in the process of crop-dusting a shopping mall. There’s a part of me that will always be an 11 year old boy, I guess, and I don’t see a lot of shame in that. Especially since there were a lot of instances in which I had to be much older than the age I was at the time.
Anyhoo, “Detachable Penis” is about just that. A poor, unfortunate New York City dude somehow manages to lose his detachable penis. He asks his friends for help, mopes around for a bit, and ultimately (SPOILER ALERT) finds his penis being sold by some dude on St. Marks Place in the Village. So, in addition to being a hilarious tune, “Detachable Penis” also manages to make me (somewhat) nostalgic for the East Village of the early ‘90s, which is when I was first beginning to familiarize myself with New York City beyond my neighborhood.
Truthfully, this is the only King Missile song I’m familiar with, and that designation will probably hold for the rest of my days. It’s a constant during my “120 Minutes” DJ sets, and it even ties in to Radio Free Brooklyn (oh, you don’t listen to my radio show? You should.) King Missile lead vocalist John Hall has done audio drops for the station (and his brother, known as “Faceboy”, is an on-air personality. During our first meeting, Faceboy casually mentioned to the group that he’d spent the previous evening being pegged…by a (presumably) detachable penis. What a world.