by Abraham Kuranga
Copyright © 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
January 31, 2016.
Raphael Saadiq is cool.
Student Council president cool. Zach Morris cool. O.K. well, you get the
point. Saadiq is also extremely focused. No stranger to success, Saadiq
has reached both highs and lows, but mostly highs, with Tony! Toni! Toné!
and later Lucy Pearl.
Saadiq was introduced to
listeners via the Tony's well received Little
Walter debut. The snowball really started to build with the group’s
next release, The Revival, fueled by the hits
"It Never Rains (In Southern California)" and "Feels
the highs could seem to get no higher, Saadiq decided to take his own path
to the top. “I definitely enjoy being solo,” Saadiq says. “In a group, you
are forced to write for three different people, different personalities,"
he continues. Saadiq, though, is his own man.
raised in Oakland, California as Raphael Wiggins,
Saadiq has become one of
the most respected singer/songwriter/producers in music today.
He has performed with people like Prince, D'Angelo,
Alicia Keys and Erykah Badu. He wrote hit singles like D'Angelo's
"Untitled" and Badu's "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)." Saadiq
was introduced to
listeners as a solo artist via a few hit soundtrack
singles in the 90s, including "Ask of You" from the film Higher Learning
and the Q-Tip collaboration "Get Involved" from the soundtrack of the
animated Eddie Murphy TV series The P.J.s.
After the hit detour to super group Lucy Pearl (with Dawn
Robinson from En Vogue and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest)
in 2000, his solo debut album Instant Vintage
did well in 2002, charting with the singles
"Be Here" (with D'Angelo) and "Still Ray" and earning five Grammy
Saadiq has returned with a new arsenal entitled Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray.
“Instant Vintage is like my Off the Wall,” Saadiq says,
referencing Michael Jackson’s initial foray as a solo artist. He continues
that he wanted the album to be more aggressive, more up-tempo than anything
he’d done in the past.
brings us to the name Ray Ray. “I was just bringing it back to
Oakland,” says Saadiq. “All my boys from back home know me as Ray Ray, so
it’s kinda like a nod to them,” Saadiq continues. It is his back home
experiences that inspired Ray Ray. “When I was young, I would watch
a lot of blaxploitation movies, with incredible story lines,” Saadiq says.
“With this album, I wanted to put a story to music,” he continues. “We
actually shot the album cover before recording the album so I would have a
visual to work from.”
boasts an array of rock, soulful and hip hop cuts that go hand-in-hand with
the blaxploitation theme. “Ray Ray’s Theme” is a funky, Shaft
inspired tune coupled with dramatic strings. Saadiq’s voice is just slick
enough to take you back. The most gullible listener would think they were
listening to some old school soul cat.
“This is the people’s record,” Saadiq says of Ray Ray. “I just want everyone to have a good time.”
A good time is definitely the only thing to be had with this set. “Live
Without You”, “Not A Game” featuring Babyface, and “I Want You Back” are
standout tracks. All three tote groovy, laid back vibes typical of Saadiq
and his music.
any other element, hip-hop is the dominant characteristic in Ray Ray.
Asked if the influence was intentional, Saadiq
says, “Not so much
intentional, but it’s definitely a part of me.”
is being released by Saadiq’s own Pookie Entertainment label. After years
of major label releases with past projects, Saadiq felt the time was right.
“It was time to control my own destiny,” Saadiq explains. “The entrepreneur
in me always wanted to do it.” Not that the major labels didn’t do a good
job, but Saadiq feels that it’s his time to be in charge. “I learn more
doing it myself,” he says. “I can see the vision.”
Saadiq definitely had vision. Call it divine inspiration or what have you.
Saadiq has it and he wants everyone to know. “I just want people to
remember me as a consistent artist,” Saadiq says. “One who took chances.”
If his music is any indication, listening to Raphael Saadiq is a chance