Artists have gone to great lengths to reinvent themselves in hopes of capturing just a trace of their former glory. They change labels, change their hair, trade band members, even shack up with a new domestic partner to make fresh headlines in the blogosphere. In the end, media hawks and longtime fans “who knew you when” feast on their folly with great delight, and the music invariably suffers along with its creator.
But what about when culture does the reinventing, and you just hang on for the ride? When you do what you love, love what you do, and leave the rest to the music buyers and the headline writers?
Raphael Saadiq has left his mark on three decades of popular music. As a member of Tony! Toni! Toné!, he turned out jams like “Feels Good” and “If I Had No Loot,” which helped transform the face of R&B. His work in late ’90s supergroup Lucy Pearl with En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad earned him a Grammy nomination.
His first solo LP, 2002’s “Instant Vintage,” earned him five more. Across each album, his tenets never wavered: sing powerfully; sing truthfully; know your instruments; respect the groove; and (most importantly) don’t fake it.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, his childhood was met with an improbable amount of personal tragedy. He lost siblings to drugs, murder, and suicide, but it was his music, not his tragedy, that defined him.
Like the title of his latest album, “Stone Rollin’,” Saadiq has soldiered on, trading up the slick Motown style of 2008’s “The Way I See It” for a raucous, bluesy sound that invokes the likes of Chuck Berry, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters. And, like every album before it, “Stone Rollin’ ” is introducing Saadiq to a new era of soul searchers.
Check out the July issue of Red Bulletin magazine for more of the article. To see it all, download the Red Bulletin iPad app.