It’s been eight long years since Michael Eugene Archer, the Grammy-winning soul stirrer known as D’Angelo, released his acclaimed second CD, Voodoo. During his hiatus, he was arrested for drug possession and DUI, suffered injuries in a car crash, and checked into rehab. But just when it seemed like he’d gone the way of Lauryn Hill, his rep confirmed to me that he’s currently recording his third studio album in Los Angeles. Though no release date has been set, the still-untitled disc will be distributed by RCA/SonyBMG and will feature collaborations with John Mayer and Raphael Saadiq, who co-produced D’Angelo’s 2000 hit "Untitled (How Does It Feel)."
In addition to keeping busy in the studio, D’Angelo’s also working out with celebrity trainer Mark Jenkins, who helped the singer-songwriter get in famously chiseled shape for his deliciously sexy "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" video. I just got off the phone with Mark, who called from Los Angeles to give me the scoop about both of the singer-songwriter’s hot new bodies of work.
MARGEAUX’S MIX: What did D’Angelo look like when you first got the call to start training him again?
MARK JENKINS: He had already dropped a significant amount of weight on his own, so I didn’t see him at his craziest stage. He knew better than to show up training with me like that. It would be too painful for him. So he got in shape before we got together, somewhat — he got in shape to get in shape.
When was that?
Maybe three or four months ago.
How much did he weigh at that time?
It’s hard to say how much he weighed because of the way he stays covered up. He’s very anti-body, anti-press. He’s interesting to train because you don’t really get a good look at his physique because he’s always covered up. I guess I would say he was over 200 pounds. And he’s not that tall of a guy — about five feet six inches.
How big was he at his worst?
I don’t use weight when I’m training people; I use body-fat measurements. In the "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" video, he was around 6 percent body fat. At his worst, he must’ve got up to the high 20s or 30s in body-fat percentage, which is a big departure from 6. That’s drastic.
As his trainer, how did it make you feel — no pun intended — to see him let himself go like that?
I was very upset and I told him. I was like, "Hey, man, I really felt bad because I left you in great shape but apparently, I didn’t instill in you what you needed." And he was like, "Nah, you know, circumstances and things happen in life." But you can’t get somebody in great shape and do all this press, and then say when they get out of shape, "Hey, that had nothing to do with me!" So I feel bad as a trainer about that. He understands. He knows. But of course, it’s not 100 percent my fault because it is his body and ultimately his responsibility.
What’s his workout regime?
He’s very much into mixed martial arts and boxing. I’ve also got some dirt bikes, so we’re gonna hit some moguls and trails this week. I’m actively trying to find sports that he’s genuinely interested in so that he has motivation to train for his sport as opposed to going into the gym and just doing curls and looking in the mirror, because this way he’ll be more apt to stay in shape for a lifetime. The mistake we made the last time is that it turned into more of a superficial thing: How do I look? How do my arms look? How do my abs look? And a lot of that was due to the media as opposed to a lifestyle thing.
What’s his fitness goal? Is he striving to reclaim his sex symbol status?
I doubt you’ll see him naked again, but you never know. For him to be so musically talented and to look like that at the same time, I think it was a lot for people to see. He felt like people were looking at his body and not listening to his music. And I think that was a big contributing factor to him subsequently getting so out of shape. So instead of us working out for an aesthetic or the look, I tried to make it more of a spiritual thing, like this is the vessel that houses your spirit, so let’s get that in tune so your music will be better, you’ll be a better parent, and you’ll be a better citizen.
How close is he to reaching his goal?
He’s 20 pounds above how he looked in the "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" video, so he’s looking pretty good. We got cheekbones and everything. I’m pleased to say he’s been following his diet and his training regime. If everything goes according to plan, I think he should be right back there in a month and a half.
After going through so much personal drama in the last few years, does he have a renewed commitment to his health?
Yeah. I think he took it for granted the first time out and he really appreciates being in shape and training. In the course of making fitness a part of your life, it’s normal to backslide. If you drop 40 pounds, you might gain 10 to 15 back. That’s normal — although it was a little bit more extreme in his case.
Do you guys listen to music when you work out?
Oh, yeah! Right now, he’s hitting strictly old heavy metal pretty hard, like Anthrax and stuff like that. When we did the "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" video, it was classic hip-hop — Mobb Deep, Nice & Smooth, Wu-Tang, and vintage ’80s stuff.
Have you heard any of his new music?
Yeah! It’s pretty hot!
What does it sound like?
I can’t tell you. He’s sensitive with that. He’ll get real mad. But it’s a departure, I will say, and it’s just as good, if not better.
Is that all you can tell me?
Believe me, just to hear something, I gotta go through two hours of, like, "Yo, Mike, you got me in the studio and you’re not going to play anything?" He’s like, "Aw, man! It’s not finished yet." I’m like, "Dude, I’m only a trainer! Do you think I’m gonna be able to detect whether it’s finished or not?" But it’s really hot.
Has he hinted about when his next CD is going to drop?
I don’t know yet because he’s still recording. He’s in the zone right now.
I, for one, am beyond thrilled by this news! What about you? Do you think D’Angelo’s upcoming CD will be worth the wait? Which are you most excited about: (a) seeing his sexy body, (b) hearing his new music, or (c) all of the above? Oh, and how much do you love the image of D rocking out to Anthrax in the gym?!