He is a standard bearer for what folks call ‘old school’ music, a contemporary artist continuing a time-honored tradition that goes back to the ‘60s and ‘70s. From his early days as a member of the groundbreaking ‘80s group Tony! Toni! Toné! through his work as an award-winning producer of such artists as Joss Stone, The Roots, Snoop Dogg, John Legend among many others and his own solo albums, the multi-talented Raphael Saadiq has kept the faith. “Every record I’ve ever made has had those influences…The Temptations, Al Green, The Four Tops and so on,” Raphael explains from the L.A. studio where he recorded his latest illustrious work. This album is the culmination of a lifetime of experiences informed by the music I grew up on.”
Listening to his newest release, 3-time Grammy-nominated The Way I See It, it’s immediately obvious that it could have been recorded thirty years ago. Musically cohesive in the same way that soul music albums were recorded back in the day, Raphael’s third solo album and first for Sony BMG is not merely a throwback: it is as close to the kind of record made in Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Miami or New York by any number of super R&B hit makers to anything recorded since. While other contemporary artists may attempt to emulate the sound and flavor of ‘70s soul music, Raphael Saadiq brings real emotion, real feeling and production values that are simply (to borrow a popular phrase from said decade), right on.
The inspiration for singer/songwriter/musician/producer and arranger Raphael’s follow up to 2004’s critically-acclaimed “Ray Ray” set came from an unlikely destination. “I was out of the country, cooling out, in Costa Rica and The Bahamas. I was surfing and ran into people from all kinds of places…and I noticed everybody was listening to this classic soul music and when I came back home and the music for this album flowed organically, naturally. Since I have my own studio, I was able to perfect it, take my time to make it right. I was able to live with it, day after day and I think that had a lot to do with how the album turned out. In all, it took about four months to put it all together.”
Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Raphael Saadiq would make an album so satisfying for both old school heads and today’s hip music buyers: his background as a musician, singer and songwriter is steeped in a love for R&B married with a commitment to making his own brand of expressive soul music.
The Way I See It succeeds as a masterful collection of new material that speaks to Raphael Saadiq’s deep love for rhythm and blues. “While I was making the album, I watched videos by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Al Green, The Four Tops…and fused them all together,” Raphael says speaking of the further inspiration he found for creating the album, which truly showcases the rich diversity of funky grooves and smooth balladry that is Saadiq’s calling card.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Raphael Saadiq learned to play guitar, drums, and bass at the age of six, making the bass his preferred instrument. Singing with a professional gospel group by the time he was nine, Raphael’s musical education encompassed classical music, ‘40’s spirituals, hymns, jazz and, of course, R&B. Shortly after high school, Saadiq won a chance to join Prince and Sheila E. on their 1984 “Parade” world tour.
As the lead vocalist and bass player with late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s group Tony! Toni! Toné!, Raphael experienced his first taste of mega-success, kicking off with the hit single, “Little Walter” in 1988 through the now-classic slow jam “It Never Rains (In Southern California)” and the club/dance party of “Feels Good,” resulting in total sales of over six million copies for the band.
After leaving the group, Raphael recorded two singles for hit movies (1995’s “Ask of You” from “Higher Learning” and “Me & You” from “Boyz in the Hood”). In 2000, he created the supergroup Lucy Pearl (with En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad) and the team’s much-appreciated sole self-titled album received Grammy, American Music Awards and Soul Train Music Awards nominations.
Production credits for artists like Macy Gray, TLC and the Roots followed: in 2000, Raphael won a Grammy for the song “Untitled” from D’Angelo’s “Voodoo” and in 2002, he released his much-anticipated first solo album. Released on his own Pookie Entertainment imprint, the soul-infused “Instant Vintage” made history when Raphael became the first artist nominated for no less than five Grammy Awards without having a major record label deal.
In 2003, Raphael released the live CD, “All Hits at the House of Blues” following it in 2004 with “Ray Ray.” In demand as a producer, songwriter and musician, Raphael’s impressive list of credits includes Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Anthony Hamilton, D’Angelo, Kelis, Q-Tip, Ludacris, The Bee Gees, T-Boz from TLC, Joss Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire and many others.
Raphael Saadiq is currently touring worldwide in support of his critically-acclaimed, Grammy-nominated album, The Way I See It.