The year was 1989, I was in 9th grade, and Tony! Toni! Tone! broke the top 10 of the Hot 100 with the single “Feels Good.” The song was electric. It was the gateway to an undeniable mojo that would last the group for a decade, garner them multi-platinum status, and make them critically acclaimed worldwide.
It was during this time that youngest member Raphael Saadiq honed his Oakland rooted gospel-delic writing and production skills to set himself on a path to longevity.
Post Tony! Toni! Tone! success, he went on to become one of the most prolific producers in R&B, crafting hits for D’Angelo, Joss Stone, John Legend, The BeeGees, Earth Wind & Fire, The Roots, etc.
His solo work has served as a method of carving out an identity; a deeply honest experiment in soul searching through music.
The release of 2008’s “The Way I See It” (Columbia), struck a chord with fans and critics alike, garnering 3 Grammy nominations, an extensive world tour, and won iTunes Album of The Year. The chord’s secret is nestled comfortably in the roots of jazz, blues, and R&B music; the purest forms of American music.
Saadiq has simplified things by returning to classic styles of era’s past – like the golden ages of Stax and Motown – without alienating the modern, tech savvy audience. Whether that’s in the tweaking of an arrangement, or presenting Jay Z in a non-traditional rap context, he’s figured out how to please himself while satisfying others very well.
Ray (as he’s affectionately called) has carried the idea further on his highly anticipated new full length titled “Stone Rollin“, due out this Spring on the Columbia label. The compositions are rich, full of energy and raw emotion, retaining the classic soul of “The Way I See It” without sounding repetitious or dated. It’s modern music in a classic context. Many have tried, but not succeeded in the way that Raphael Saadiq has.
If you can, do yourself a favor and see him perform live; it’s an electrifying show, perfection on stage. From the fashion and choreography of the band, to the outtakes, breakdowns, and musical surprises. Definitely worth your time and loot.
Oh, and make sure to check him out LIVE on Morning Becomes Eclectic from Austin on Friday, March 18!
— Garth Trinidad