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It was quite a sunny day in Paris, and this great spring/summer feeling was indeed all over the place. This, I will easily remember, and I guess 10 years from now, I’ll still be able to recount this day without missing any single detail. Because that was THE day. March 30, 2011 it was, and the very moment when my deepest, softest, biggest dream would finally come true was about to happen. The most meaningful of all, because it was the one I had been pursuing for the past 17 years or so. The one which almost materialized once, but eventually vanished right before my eyes. The one which is also the main reason I started this whole blogging thing, the one, I must confess, behind anything I have undertaken since I chose to embrace, on and off, a career as a freelance music journalist.
Of course, as I’m walking down the avenue that will lead me to today’s meeting place, I cannot but think of what I had to go through to finally get there. All the way to this very day, this place, this interview I was about to conduct. If it wasn’t for a record, and a special track, I probably wouldn’t be there. « If I Had No Loot » was the song, and Tony ! Toni ! Toné ! was the band. I was just 15 back in 1993, and the stellar voice of that man who, at that time, still went by the name of Charlie Ray Wiggins simply took me off guard. Little did I know that this voice, this style, this groove would eventually become the soundtrack of my life.
In 2008, that little thing called success knocked (again) at Raphael Saadiq’s door. Following the release of « The Way I See It », he went from being a respected songwriter/producer BUT most importantly, an indie solo act , to the newly designated leader of the « Soul revival » pack. What a change, indeed. Now an in demand, international Soul phenomenon, playing sold out shows whenever he was in town, I was legitimately wondering how the little blogger that I was would make her way in all that media frenzy... Success tends to make even the most humble, down-to-earth people become unreachable. It cuts you from your (fan)base. But still, miracles happen.
March the 30th, 2011. Of course, nothing happened that day as I had so often pictured it in my head. No in depth talk, open-hearted confessions this time around. But I ain’t no Oprah or Diane Sawyer, and anyway, I wasn’t offered a 60-minute interview. What I was given instead was 10 short minutes (that I managed to stretch to 15), in between a radio interview and the recording of a live session. This was some very precious moment, and I tried to make the best out of it. That wasn’t enough to talk about such a varied, complex and fascinating album as « Stone Rollin' », but I managed to come back home not only with some stars in the eyes, but also with some answers to please all the Ray Ray supporters of the world.
In this special « Music Story » feature, our beloved Ray Ray talks about his past collaborations with D'Angelo and Joss Stone, introduces his new proteges Tha Boogie, tells us about his Grammy moment with Mick Jagger and even reveals how late R&B songbird Aaliyah became the inspiration behind one of his signature song. Hope you’ll enjoy this experience as much as I did. Watch the video right below.
[a very special thanks to Lauren, from Mr Saadiq's talented team in Los Angeles, who basically made this dream become a reality for me. As corny as it may sound, maybe Marion Cotillard was right when she once said there were some angels in the city, ah ah !]
As a bonus, please find below the complete video playlist we submited to Raphael, as well as the full length version of our interview with him.
1 - Raphael Saadiq feat. D'Angelo : Be Here
When we look at you in the "Be Here" video, and we see you, 10 years later, gracing the fashion pages of some high profile French magazines, there's been, obviously, quite an evolution. When did you discover this fashion sense of yours?
"Oh, I've had it all the time, but it was just on some different levels and at different times. You just wanna kinda switch it up sometimes, but I've always been in the fashion, even when I was doin' "Be Here" but you know, you just start turning the pages, it's a lot of different layers, of different styles."
You had more of a B-boy look at that time ?
"Just for that video. I mean, at home, I still dress like that, you know."
"Be Here" was also one of your last collaborations with D'Angelo. Not too upset Mark Ronson was the one to be able to produce some new D'Angelo material ?
(Smiling)"No, no, no. Mark Ronson is a great producer and D'Angelo worked with many people, like Ahmir (Questlove), and himself really, he's sort of like a one man show. We're no friends so you know, I don't see him ever... I'm sort of working on my own things so I never really get the chance to see him. No, I'm happy that the fans are waiting, so I feel good that they do get a chance to hear him, in whatever capacity."
So, are you currently working on something with him ?
"No, not at all."
2 - Joss Stone : Tell Me 'Bout It
Do you consider Joss Stone as your muse ?
"Yes, she was my muse, for my last record. Cause she was always around me and she heard the record before anybody, "The Way I See It". And she just kept telling me "this is some of your best work" and I was so wrapped up in the middle of it that I couldn't really pay attention to it, and she was really paying attention to certain details on the record. And when I spent 3 months in the Bahamas recording her record, it sort of opened me up to start my record."
"The photos, for her, she came up with it, that was her idea. Of course everything was her idea on the record. So she came up with this thing, an intertwining of colors, like "music has no colors". She was this white girl singing Soul music, and people always asked her "how can you be that little white girl from London singing Soul music" ? And her whole thing was "music has no color, I just love what I love", so that was her way to show music has no colors, but she had to convince me to do it !"
3 - CJ Hilton feat. Raphael Saadiq : Gangsta Hustla
What happened to your relationship with CJ Hilton, this young singer we discovered on "The Way I See It" ? Wasn't he supposed to be signed to your own imprint ? I heard he is now on J Records...
"Yes, he's signed to J Records so... Well, he wanted to be directly signed to J Records so they actually, huh... I was only signing him because he didn't really know what to do and then he figured he could take it from there and he signed to J Records. And I think they probably might be ruining his career (laugh)".
I guess so. Have you heard his latest song ?
It is very disappointing...
"Yeah, probably. Yes, J Records, this is what they do, single-handedly."
And what about your own label, Velma Records, is it still running ?
"It's still... I haven't put out a group yet on Velma, I didn't have anytime but there's a group that I like called Tha Boogie"
Yes, that was precisely what I was about to ask you next...
"I'm trying to bring them here. I'm trying to bring Tha Boogie to France !".
4 - Tha Boogie : Best around
France might actually be ready for them, because they sound different.
"Yeah. Tha Boogie ! Korus, Lejin, and NuSchool, that's their names. They are very creative, they're self-made, they don't have any identity problems, they know who they are and I like to work with people who know who they are. I think they are gonna be very big, very promising group ! I'm trying to bring them to France, Columbia is talking to me about them. But they're right now on a Rolling Stone magazine contest. They're having people vote and they made it to the 2nd level. And when I was playing South By Southwest, Rolling Stone saw me there and they were talking about Tha Boogie to me, so I think it has gone pretty good".
[Ed. note: the votes are now closed but you can still listen/watch some Tha Boogie exclusive on the contest's official site : Choose The Cover Of Rolling Stone magazine.]
5 - Aaliyah : Rock The Boat
The very last Aaliyah video... Did her passing away influence your song "Skyy, Can You Feel Me" ?
"Yeah it did. I was just all kinda caught up in the moment and I wrote the song on the spot. Cause we heard it on the news and a friend of mine, Fatima Robinson, was supposedly on the plane, but she wasn't. I just wrote the song so as to let people know was I was feeling, but I was kinda thinking about her when I wrote the song. I think she was good, she was a great artist, a really nice girl with a promising career, and more than that, she was a workaholic. I always like to give it up for people who work that hard you know, like Beyoncé, who is probably the hardest-working girl in showbiz and Aaliyah was that before Beyoncé."
6 - Mick Jagger/Raphael Saadiq live : The Grammy Awards 2011
At the Grammys, the fact you stood in the shadow of Mick Jagger and that your name wasn't even cleary mentioned was a bit confusing for your supporters. You later came to Twitter to clear things up. You made a sports analogy, but what did you really mean to tell us ?
" Everybody was kinda angry that the Grammys didn't really mention my name. Well, the Grammys is a funny type of organization anyway - I never really paid too much attention to - but just actually putting a band together for Mick and performing with Mick to me was more like... I fell like, people know my name, it's the Grammys, they would have never invited me anyway. Mick invited me. You know, Mick is 67 years old, he's been around for so many decades doing music. I fell like, if you stay humble you don't trip off the small things. Small things kill people. You found out that I was there, you know my name. A lot of people didn't even know who I was before "The Way I See It", and I've been doing it for 23 years, so to me, to make it like a big stink about it and go to the Grammys and say "you didn't say my name !" wouldn't it be kinda vain for me to do that ?
The validation was that Mick Jagger called me. I didn't call Mick. He called me. In my house, in my home. And he asked me to do it, I did it. I played, it sounded good, everybody knows it sounded great. So it's just sort of like a validation to the American people. Like « Mick Jagger called me, he didn't call you »".
|Solomon Burke - Nashville promo shoot (c) 2006 Snapper Music|
And Mick Jagger is a Blues dude, so for him to love that type of music which is my music, my heritage, my background... He was visiting our music and I was backing him up. And being that he had a great time and we had a good time, he was the nicest person in the world, he wrote everybody letters, each member of the band he wrote them separate letters, and he hang out for two days. You see in the footage he played harmonica, he hung out, he was the coolest dude, so sometimes the experience is better than the name thing, or the Grammys going Raphael Saadiq, I didn't really care about that. My mother was there, she had a good time, my sister was there, it was beautiful."
7 - Quadron : Baby Be Mine
You spent time in the studio with Coco of Quadron last summer, and I remember you said she was sounding like a young Michael Jackson. When will we be able to hear this track ?
"Well, what happened was she actually sang it for this show, this kid show on Nickelodeon. They did a Michael Jackson cover and she demoed it so the song was for this joke for the show. She demoed it and a girl came in and actually sang it for the show, but I'm pretty sure we'll get to work on something else too that she will be singing."
8 - Raphael Saadiq : Good Man
Tell me about Taura Stinson, who litterally blew me away on "Good Man". How did you work on the song together ?
"She's like a sister to me, she's like my little sister. She tells everybody she's my sister and she is, but I have so many sisters I don't like to confuse people but she's like my adoptive sister.
She wanted me to say that, but I told her : "I'm not saying that I'm leaving your voice on it !".
So her voice wasn't supposed to be on it but I left it. I had the music and she came in and said "I got this part for « Good Man »". She started sort of reciting it and we left it there and so that's how it got there."
More on Raphael Saadiq :
- On TV : watch Raphael on Jimmy Kimmel Live for an outdoor mini concert on 5/12/2011 (details available here).
- On the radio : listen to an exclusive live session for the BBC, plus an interview with DJ Gilles Peterson on Gilles Peterson Worldwide.
- Catch Raphael live in Europe/USA : all dates available on the artist's official myspace : myspace.com/raphaelsaadiq/shows
- In Stores : "Stone Rollin'" (includes lead singles "Radio", "Good Man" and "Stone Rollin'") out now in France, UK and in the USA on May 10, 2011 (Columbia Records).
More on Raphael Saadiq on his official website, his Facebook fanpage and on Twitter.