Through the Eyes of Saadiq

It’s been twenty years since we first met Raphael Saadiq.

Artists with resumes as extensive as his would typically be rockin’ a Hugh

Heffner robe and smoking a pipe during interviews by now, but not him. At 42, Saadiq

still looks as young as he did when the family affair Tony! Toni! Toné! [with his brother D’wayne Wiggins and cousin Timothy Christian Riley] released their

debut Who? in ’88. Since then, Raphael

has penned prolific lyrics for both himself and others, making him one of the

most gifted daddies of Neo-Soul.

Back in May, Columbia Records held a playback for Saadiq’s

highly anticipated comeback The Way I See It. Over chicken satay and wine, Columbia’s SVP of Media Yvette

Noel-Schure ushered eager listeners through every track on the album, while

Saadiq sat quietly with his buddy Q-Tip, completely hungover and hoarse from

the night before. Saadiq managed to keep it together long enough to thank

everyone, while Tip – clad in an orange raincoat, sailor hat, and shades

– repped for his boy despite the fact that the food and booze present

probably made him ill.

Two months later, we meet Saadiq again – same time,

same place, same condition. He was partying the night before with Q-Tip at the

same venue as before, New York’s APT, and was recovering once more. However,

the party tales connected to these evenings aren’t laced with negativity and

bad habits – they were just two best friends catching up. Saadiq had

spent the past week in New York putting his band together and doing photo

shoots and interviews to prepare for the Fall release of The Way I See It, an album that as Saadiq puts it, is meant for the

silver screen. “I just wanted to make music that would sound good in films,”

Saadiq explains; hence the album title. “Music is the soundtrack to my life.” The

Way I See It is an amalgam of ’60s and ‘70s

inspired tunes reminiscent of groups like the Delfonics and Stylistics. “That

music didn’t come out when I was a kid,” the singer/songwriter/producer

recalls, “but at 14 or 15, my parents were still playing that music.” The album

opens with the soulfully grooved “Sure Hope You Mean It” and includes other

nostalgically tinged cuts like “Keep Marching,” and the ‘70s twisted “Like It”

with harmonicas provided by none other than Stevie Wonder. Getting Stevie on

the horn is proof that Saadiq is undoubtedly something special. “I just called

him – ya know Stevie takes a long time to do anything sometimes. But I

called him and he came over right away like 12 o’clock that night,” Saadiq

states. “We had already said his name on the record anyway, so we were hoping

he came through. And he came through.” The respect of Stevie Wonder is just one

of the perks that come along with being the one of Soul’s chosen few. The other

is pulling D’Angelo out of retirement, as Saadiq plans to work with both

D’Angelo and Kelis on their respective comeback records. “That’s like a brother

to me,” says Saadiq of his relationship with D’Angelo. “We talk all year round

[even] when we’re not doing music. It’s a natural progression for us to work


Raphael Saadiq has survived two decades with a low profile

career working with high profile artists. While the future of his past projects

like Lucy Pearl are still up in the air [“Not with the same members. Me and

Shaheed would probably always do something together.”], one thing is for

certain – there will be no Tony! Toni! Toné! reunion. In the early ‘90s

during an interview, Saadiq’s brother D’wayne advised that the group would

rehearse naked to overcome stage fright – a myth that still circulates

today. “I do not know where [D’wayne] got that from,” laughs Saadiq though

still somewhat appalled. “That never happened. Hell no. Fuck no.” So why no

reunion? “Because of stories like that

he jokes. “That’s why. You just reminded me why.”

Love That Girl - Raphael Saadiq