Editor’s Note: Our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series pays homage to the artists responsible for the most inspired and indispensable discographies of all time. We hope you enjoy these tributes, and stay tuned for many more to come.
After blessing the world with four meticulously crafted solo studio albums in the nine-year span between 2002 and 2011, the contemporary soul man extraordinaire and bona fide class act Raphael Saadiq has been relatively quiet over the past five years.
Quiet, but not entirely silent, mind you. Saadiq has made a handful of stellar cameo appearances recently, most notably on Kid Cudi’s “Balmain Jeans” (2014), Big K.R.I.T.’s “Soul Food” (2014), and Adrian Younge’s “Magic Music” from the producer’s Something About April II compilation released earlier this year. And if you were paying close enough attention during the GRAMMY Awards telecast last month, you were able to catch glimpses of the gifted singer-songwriter-producer strumming the bass alongside the legendary Nile Rodgers, in support of Lady Gaga’s vibrant David Bowie tribute performance.
A central figure within the ascendance of the new jack swing movement during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s as the co-founder of Tony! Toni! Toné!, along with brother D’wayne Wiggins and cousin Timothy Christian Riley, the Oakland-bred Saadiq was instrumental in evolving the band’s unique sound across their four studio albums. While the group’s first two LPs, Who? (1988) and The Revival (1990), reflected their signature melding of retro and modern soul, the dual masterpieces of Sons of Soul (1993) and House of Music (1996) are the most fully realized embodiments of the trio’s convergent aesthetics between old and new.
Saadiq left Tony! Toni! Toné! in 1997 to pursue other creative endeavors and collaborations. In 1999, he formed Lucy Pearl with A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson, who replaced original member D’Angelo after he opted instead to focus on completing his sophomore album Voodoo, which features the memorable “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” co-written and co-produced by Saadiq. Lucy Pearl proved an ephemeral proposition, however, as the trio disbanded before making a proper follow-up to their 2000 self-titled debut album, an excellent song suite that includes the hits “Dance Tonight,” “Don’t Mess with My Man,” and “Without You.”
In the wake of Lucy Pearl’s dissolution, Saadiq formally launched his solo career with the unveiling of his dazzling debut album Instant Vintage in June of 2002. Three brilliant long players have followed in the form of the critically applauded Ray Ray (2004), The Way I See It (2008), and Stone Rollin’ (2011), all of which have solidified Saadiq’s status as one of the most dynamic musical visionaries working today.
And as we grow increasingly restless awaiting even the faintest inkling of a new album in the works, beyond the sporadic reports that have surfaced here and there, we’ve decided to curate a special mix of Saadiq’s finest moments to date. The fifth volume of our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series spans all of Tony! Toni! Toné!’s albums and Saadiq’s solo fare, plus various soundtrack cuts, live performances, and guest spots with his hip-hop brethren DJ Quik, Q-Tip, Snoop Dogg, and The Roots. The playlist also includes a solid sampling of other artists’ compositions that bear Saadiq’s golden production and songwriting touch, including songs by the aforementioned D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Earth, Wind & Fire, Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, Angie Stone, and Joss Stone, among many others.