Image by Guillaume Laurent via Flickr
Today’s playlist highlights everything that I love about vocals, instruments, songwriting, production, and Raphael Saadiq is all of that. He is headlining AFROPUNK Fest ’17 in Brooklyn this weekend, and I can’t believe that I’ll be witnessing it for the first time. Out of my top 5 artists of all time, he is #3 next to Prince and Michael Jackson. Yes, he is that amazing. If you don’t recognize his name by now, I swear you know one of his songs that he either produced, scored, written, or performed. Do you know who composes the music for HBO’s Insecure? You remember that song you like on Netflix’s Luke Cage? Solange’s record, A Seat at the Table is an instant classic right? All Raphael Saadiq collaborations. Before I continue to ramble why his contribution to music is legendary, let’s pull back to how I got introduced to his music.
I remember a few years back when MP3 players that resembled little beepers were still around (this was before we knew what an iPod Touch was), and my brother had about 12-14 songs on it that he listened to. I might have been about 13 years old at the time, and I remember one of the tracks I heard was “Whatever You Want” by Tony! Toni! Toné! — I kept that song on repeat for at least an hour that day, not kidding. The strings, the guitar chords, the vocals; it was a different sound than what I’ve been listening to before.
Since I was a soprano singer for the children’s choir at my church at the time, the high voice in the chorus is what I gravitated to the most, and that led me to do some research. In time, I found out this mystery man with the high voice is also a fantastic bass player– who has a huge catalog of collaborations including but not limited to, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Angie Stone, Elton John, Total, D’Angelo, A Tribe Called Quest, Joss Stone, John Legend…like seriously the list goes on. I’ve listened to so many records that I can now identify by the bass or guitar chords if it’s been blessed by Saadiq. Aside from bass playing, his group work with Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl, as well as his solo work is impossible to ignore. You began to see his growth over time as he experiments with various sounds and techniques that reminds you of national treasures like Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Curtis Mayfield.
With that said, let’s get on with my top favorite songs and a few collaborations of Mr. Saadiq, starting with an instant classic:
1. Tony! Toni! Toné! – It Never Rains (In Southern California)
This video definitely puts the spotlight on Mr. Saadiq as the seducer and eye candy for watchers. Like, seriously, his eyes are basically screaming at you through the screen. Plus, I’m incredibly in love with the story-line and visual creativity. I’m curious though; why did it take a year to see this girl?
2. Tony! Toni! Toné! – Just Like My Papa
In honor of his father, Mr. Charlie Ray Wiggins, who passed away earlier this year, I had to include this song with both Saadiq’s father and brother, D’Wayne (who is also a legend). Saadiq comes from a huge family and dealt with a few major losses, but has not once expressed anger or negative vibes in his music. He’s such a strong person. For the live performance, check it out on YouTube here.
3. Black Men United – U Will Know
I discovered this song last year, and it touches my heart every time I listen to it. I recommend every black man to listen to this; so uplifting. Although Saadiq has a minor vocal part in this, the main component is his bass contribution to the record, which you see him periodically playing it in the video. Watch closely.
4. Raphael Saadiq – Ask of You
This song was also on that MP3 player, and I’ve been loving it ever since. Also, can we admire the braces and locs?
5. D’Angelo – Lady
In the video of this classic, you see him play the guitar right in the beginning. I love when these two collaborate and combine their writing. Saadiq also produced another D’Angelo classic; trust me, everyone knows it.
6. Raphael Saadiq – Still Ray
A simple record, but it says so much about him. His first solo album, Instant Vintage, is that type of record you listen to after a long day of work, or late at night after coming back from a poetry event. Such a smooth album that needs to be talked about more.
7. Bilal – Soul Sista
Here’s another amazing record he produced. It just makes me smile hearing Bilal’s vocals and the bass just taking over. This song also serves as a confidence booster for me.
8. Raphael Saadiq – Body Parts
I wish he made a video to this song, but I can imagine one in my head every time I listen to it. I love the strings in the first 20 seconds.
9. Lucy Pearl – Dance Tonight
I am really sad that they didn’t make another album. I love this blend of Hip-Hop (Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest), Pop (Dawn Robinson from En Vogue), and R&B (Saadiq). The sound was so fresh, but at least we have videos and one great album to enjoy.
10. Erykah Badu, Common – Love of My Life (Ode To Hip Hop)
I told you he produced a lot of your favorites. Now after hearing it a few times over the years, it makes so much sense that Common is on this record since this song has the female approach to his song “I Used to Love H.E.R.”…I just love music, guys.
11. Raphael Saadiq, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Lucy Pearl – Rifle Love
This song is from his Ray Ray album, that is seriously slept on.
12. Raphael Saadiq, Stevie Wonder, CJ Hilton – Never Give You Up
You know you made your mark in music history when you got a national treasure like Stevie Wonder on your album. You don’t see Mr. Wonder featured on a lot of albums of today’s music, so his harmonica is truly a treat to listen to along with the Saddiq’s and CJ’s vocals.
13. Raphael Saadiq – Good Man
*Warning: visuals of abuse/prostitution/self harm*
Some of you may have heard this for the first time on Luke Cage, but I remember hearing it when his album Stone Rollin’ came out in 2011. However, at the time I didn’t really grasp the message and feel for the song until later. That’s the beauty of discovering music; it doesn’t matter when you listen to the song, it’s just amazing that you found it. Luke Cage was the perfect platform to introduce new and young listeners to this great track.
14. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’
This is the song that reminds me of Otis Redding a little bit just because of the way Mr. Saadiq performs it. As you can tell, he is very versatile on the styles of music, and almost every style works for him.
15. Adrian Marcel – I’m Still
This song is the only one in the bunch that Mr. Saddiq didn’t contribute, but he did introduce us to R&B singer Adrian Marcel. Plus, I love his cameo in the video, and yet still remains to be in the background as he provides all of the attention and spotlight directly at Marcel. I love this song, as well as Marcel’s most recent album, GMFU, which has a few tracks Saadiq produced.
16. Solange – Cranes In The Sky
I know this song was in last week’s playlist, but it deserves a second praise. I am so happy that Solange had Saadiq as a co-executive producer for this work of art, and…just wow, I love this album. The messages are healing, the sounds are so innocent and passionate. Truly his and her best work thus far.
17. Raphael Saadiq – Skyy, Can You Feel Me
Last, not definitely not least, this song from his first album sounds amazing live. You get the bass, you get the vibe of a soulful band, stunning vocals from Saadiq and Erika Jerry; it’s just everything you need in a song to end the day. If he begins a tour after AFROPUNK, I hope he comes back to Boston so I can see him perform for a second time.
Well, we have come to the end. I hope you enjoyed all of these songs and see why this musician is so important for music culture. He doesn’t receive as much recognition and I think it’s time to acknowledge him and the value he brings to classic soul, rock, and R&B. I’ll see you next Friday with another one.