A singer, MC, self-taught keyboardist, and prolific songwriter, Angie Stone's first claim to fame was her membership in the Sequence, a pioneering hip-hop trio who arrived with "Funk You Up" (1979), the second release on Sugar Hill Records and the first rap single by an all-female group. Following a brief period with the post-new jack swing R&B act Vertical Hold, Stone began a fruitful and lasting solo career as one of neo-soul's leading lights, known for providing sharp insight into romantic relationships with her smoky yet upfront voice. She established her solo career with a pair of gold-certified albums, Black Diamond (1999) and Mahogany Soul (2001), and added to her accolades with Grammy nominations in the R&B field for "More Than a Woman" (2002), "U-Haul" (2004), and "Baby" (2007). Increasingly occupied with acting roles, she has continued to record every few years, exemplified by deeply soul-rooted LPs such as Rich Girl (2012), Dream (2015), and Full Circle (2019).
Stone, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, began singing gospel music at a young age at First Nazareth Baptist Church. Her father, a member of a local gospel quartet, would take his only child to see performances by gospel artists such as the Singing Angels and the Gospel Keynotes. During her youth, she wrote poetry, played sports, and, after high-school graduation, was offered college basketball scholarships. While working dead-end jobs, Stone began saving money to record her own demos at a local studio called PAW. She joined Gwendolyn Chisholm and Cheryl Cook in the rap trio the Sequence, who recorded hits for Joe and Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill label. These included "Funk You Up," a remake of Parliament's hit "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker" called "Funky Sound (Tear the Roof Off)," and "I Don't Need Your Love." Soon after, Stone worked with futuristic rap group Mantronix and rocker Lenny Kravitz, and formed the sophisticated R&B trio Vertical Hold, who in 1993 hit the R&B Top 40 with "Seems You're Much Too Busy." The group split after its second album.
Stone subsequently signed to Arista as a solo artist and recorded 1999's Black Diamond, a Top Ten R&B album that was certified gold on the strength of the singles "No More Rain (In This Cloud)" and "Everyday" (one of several songs she has written either for or with D'Angelo). The album won her a pair of Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. She shifted to J for 2001's Mahogany Soul, another gold seller. That album's "More Than a Woman," a duet with Calvin Richardson, earned a Grammy nomination in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Stone Love, released in 2004, fared just as well commercially with "U-Haul," another Grammy-nominated performance, among the highlights. Stone smoothly moved to the revitalized Stax label for her fourth studio album, 2007's The Art of Love & War. It topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and featured two of her best singles, "Sometimes" and the Betty Wright collaboration "Baby" — the latter of which made Stone a three-time Grammy nominee.
Throughout the next several years, the singer's studio output remained consistent in terms of chart performance, despite a series of label changes and frequent acting work. (By the end of the 2000s, Stone had appeared in several movies, including The Fighting Temptations, Pastor Brown, and Scary Movie 5, as well as the television programs Moesha, Girlfriends, and Lincoln Heights.) Unexpected, released on Stax in 2009, hit the Top 20 of the R&B chart. Saguaro Road issued Rich Girl, Stone's most stylistically diverse set, three years later, and it peaked slightly higher. For Dream, released in 2015, she joined the veteran-loaded Shanachie roster. The next year, the Goldenlane label issued Covered in Soul, for which Stone updated classics popularized by the Guess Who, the Five Stairsteps, and Carole King. Stone changed labels again for the 2019 set Full Circle, featuring the Jaheim duet "Gonna Have to Be You." ~ Ed Hogan & Andy Kellman