Black Music Lives: Raphael Saadiq

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  • He’s the musician’s musician. Raphael Saadiq is one of the most prolific musicians of the modern era, writing, producing, performing and playing on his own work as well as on songs for Jill Scott, D’Angelo, Joss Stone and more. The ageless multi-instrumentalist owes his start to another famous wunderkind – Prince. At 17, Saadiq auditioned to become the bass player for Prince on the “Parade” tour. He’s called the experience “his university” and it no doubt shaped the musician to come. From that, he and his cousin and brother formed the 80’s R&B band Toni, Tony, Tone and went on to create memorable hits like “Anniversary,” “It Never Rains in Southern California,” “Feels Good” and more.

    But Saadiq wasn’t satisfied with just fronting one band. Since the Tonies split in 1996, he’s continued his musical journey first starting Lucy Pearl with En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The project, which netted the singles “Dance Tonight” was short-lived and Saadiq was on to more projects, working with Q-Tip and D’Angelo, then releasing his own critically-acclaimed solo project “Instant Vintage.” But again, Saadiq’s creative muse took him in a new direction as he went retro with “The Way I See It” and “Stone Rollin’,” his last two projects.

    Saadiq has continued to maintain a high profile performing on the ESPY’s and on late-night TV. Almost 30 years later, he’s one of the few artists who continues to do new things and who the public and even other artists respect. Elton John paid tribute to Saadiq as he was recently honored as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

    “Immaculately dressed (a Saadiq trademark) and moving like the soul stars of old, he confirmed that great black music is alive and well and not just a string of hip-hop monotony,” John said in “Time” magazine. Saadiq played at his annual AIDS benefit at his invitation.

    Like another famous musician once said, Saadiq did it his way, never compromising his artistic vision and refusing to stay limited to one musical box or genre. The poster boy for artistic credibility, Saadiq’s legacy thus far can only inspire other musicians to follow in his innovative footsteps.  
     

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