Remember the phrase “Lights, Camera, Action?” Well, the ever-innovative Raphael Saadiq is about to flip it into something more like “Bass, Treble, BOOM” when he drops his second solo album, Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray, a project the Grammy®-winner promises will bring ghetto cinematic flair to modern R&B. With a cover concept inspired by `70s black film classics (Ray Ray dappered down in vintage vines in front of a `67 white convertible Cougar), there’s plenty-o-fun to go along with da funk.
The first two singles are sure to set the party off right. First there's "Rifle Love" (as in Cupid's got a AK47 now), a double reunion for Ray Ray that features his brother D'Wayne Wiggins from the band that launched him, Tony Toni Tone', as well as Dawn Robinson from the second hit-making group that Ray started, Lucy Pearl. Next up is the infectious "Chic Like You," co-penned by former Portrait member Michael Angelo Saulsberry and introducing Ray's nephew, Allie Baba, rapping. "He came in one day while I was gone and convinced my engineer to let him spit on the track," Ray says. "I couldn't be mad at him!"
"It's really just all about a feeling," Saadiq explains of his sophomore album, which will be released on his own Pookie Entertainment label (distributed by Navarre). "I want this album to feel like a movie, only it will tell several stories. I always try to come with concepts - to keep myself amused more than anything. It's not about trying to be deep. I just like to have fun." As for his nickname, Saadiq explains, "My mother calls me Ray Ray. My homies call me Tanqueray. Ray Ray represents the fun side of Raphael Saadiq."
Just like a movie, the album opens with the BANG of a sound effects-laden trailer followed by the introductory "Ray Ray's Theme," featuring Pookie Entertainment diva, Joi, handling the vocals. Another future hit will be "Detroit Girl," a "steppers" groove that radio and clubs can't resist. "This One" will have every honey in Texas claiming she's that one, while girls around the globe will claim the bubbly "Live Without You" and the mesmerizing "I Love Her." Sample lyric: "When I open my eyes, you are all I see / Wanna hold you, kiss you and wash your feet."
And what would a Raphael ride be like without a back-up Caddy of top notch guests? Female newcomer Teedra Moses co-wrote two bangers with Raphael titled "Chic Like You" ('cuz it sounds like the `70s dance masters) and the acoustic-techno shake "I Want You Back" (dig Raphael's killin' bass playing on this). Teedra sounded so good on the demos that he kept her on both tracks. And old friend Babyface drops in for the cautionary bumper "Not A Game." Sample lyric: "I can't lie, I want this to work / Do you think that men don't hurt?"
The project comes to a thought-provoking, "Gospeldelic" close with two prayers: a finger-poppin' one that sounds like Curtis Mayfield groovin' over a Spinners track titled "Grown Folks." Sample lyric: "We all have responsibilities / Spending hundreds on throwbacks / Man, there's kids to feed." It's followed by the Stevie-on-the-front-porch-at-sunset meditation "Save Us" (so apropos as America creeps toward Election 2004). "Musically, I pull from everybody," he exclaims. "I don't worry about it, tough. Once the production is 100% done, it will end up sounding like me anyway."
Sharing a bit of his personal philosophy of living, Saadiq reminds us, "The Bible says 'What good is it that a man gain the world yet lose his soul.' I try to keep that in mind because in this business so much is given to you. People make you feel like the highest of high and you're not even close. I do what I can to stay grounded, have fun yet really connect with the people - from Crenshaw Blvd. (Los Angeles' famed African American strip) to around the world."
Raphael Saadiq (born Charlie Ray Wiggins in Oakland, California) has made an enviable name for himself as a recording artist, multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer. It all began with the band he co-founded, Tony Toni Tone', with whom he sang lead on the chart-topping hits "Feels Good," "It Never Rains In Southern California," "Anniversary" and "Let's Get Down," among others. His resume is also filled with hits that he's mined for others, including D'Angelo ("Lady" and "Untitled"), Total ("Kissing You") and the Grammy®-winning Erykah Badu & Common duet "Love of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop)" from the film Brown Sugar. Other artists in his astoundingly diverse cache include Earth Wind & Fire, Jill Scott, Nappy Roots, Marcus Miller, the Isley Brothers, TLC, Snoop Dogg, the Bee Gees, Kelis, Mos Def, Whitney Houston, A Tribe Called Quest and John Mellencamp.
Saadiq has also released two acclaimed albums - the 2002 studio project Instant Vintage that yielded such thought-provoking hits as "Faithful," "Be Here" and "Still Ray" - and the subsequent 2003 all-star concert album, All Hits at the House of Blues: Live, which featured a gang of special guests, including D'Angelo, DJ Quik, a reunion of Tony Toni Tone`, Goapele, Ledisi and original New Birth lead singer Leslie Wilson.
Today, behind an automated white gate on a non-descript street in North Hollywood, Raphael Saadiq has quietly set up the Blakeslee Recording Company, the creative epicenter that drives his long-struggling yet finally prospering Pookie Entertainment, home of his recent signings edgy R&B singer Truth Hurts (Ready Now) and alternative urban diva Joi (Tennessee Slim Is The Bomb). Running Pookie has brought another level of responsibility to Raphael's life, one he respects and welcomes wholeheartedly inside the industry…and beyond.
"You hear a lot of artists say, 'Music is my life,' but it's not. Music is not the most important thing in my life. It's my hobby. I love it and it's been very, very good to me. I'm very blessed and very thankful, but there are other things - like my mother and father, who are getting older now - and my nieces and nephews."
Still he's never too far away from his youthful side that allows Ray Ray to come out and play. And that's what Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray is all about. "I had to put away my Play Station and X-Box to finish this thing," Ray Ray reasons, "so I figured I might as well have some fun up in here - you know, throw some double courts up in the back of the studio!"
Still ahead, be checkin' for Raphael on tour, a Tony Toni Tone' reunion album and (drum roll, please) the new Lucy Pearl: Raphael Saadiq, Dawn Robinson…and Q-Tip.
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