05 June 2009

June Artist of the Month: Raphael Saadiq

Born in Oakland, CA, in spring 1966, Raphael Saadiq (born Raphael Wiggins) started playing music at age six. He played bass at church and school and enjoyed his place on-stage at various local hometown events. After high school, Saadiq won a chance to join Prince and Sheila E. on the Parade tour. Such an experience inspired Saadiq to do his own thing, and before the '80s came to an end, he formed Tony! Toni! Tone!.

Saadiq went under his birth name of Wiggins while in Tony! Toni! Tone! and was joined by his brother, Dwayne Wiggins, and cousin Timothy Christian. Tony! Toni! Tone! made their debut with "Little Walter" in 1988. Two years later, they were mega-stars thanks to the success of their second album, The Revival. The ballad "It Never Rains (In Southern California)" and the club-friendly "Feels Good" were major hits and the band eventually sold six million albums. However, Saadiq left the group at the height of its fame.

A solo career was in the works by the time the mid-'90s rolled around. Two singles for movie soundtracks -- 1995's "Ask of You" from Higher Learning and "Me & You" from Boyz N da Hood -- were Saadiq's proper solo introduction, but not exactly satisfying. He was used to being part of a band, so a solo career made him a bit apprehensive. Saadiq bowed out for some normalcy over the next few years.

Lucy Pearl was Saadiq's next project, where he joined with En Vogue's Dawn Robinson and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest for a short-lived super-group. Saadiq also had his hand in producing material for the likes of Macy Gray, TLC, the Roots, and D'Angelo. In 2000, his song "Untitled" won D'Angelo a Grammy. Inspired by his new "gospedelic" approach, he captured a new sound for himself while recording material between Oakland and Sacramento. The end result was Instant Vintage, which earned five Grammy nominations in 2003. The blaxploitation era-referencing Ray Ray and the '60s-flavored The Way I See It followed in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

MacKenzie Wilson ~ allmusic.com

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