Although less experienced, BJ The Chicago Kid represents a crucial voice in the discussion–that of a rising newcomer who is in the thick of nailing down his own sound and artistic identity. For Fields, it seems, that faith notion goes even further, and the Genesis story of God breathing life into Adam comes across as the source of power behind soul.
For his part, BJ seems aware of his role as the young student in the presence of masters, adding simply “Soul is everything to me…it’s colorless and it’s all colors at the same time.” Many more episodes of E&J’s Generations of Soul series, featuring Saadiq, BJ The Chicago Kid and Fields will be premiering soon, some of which feature more group conversations, as well as others that home in on each individual.
, Raphael Saadiq moves away from a Motown sound to pay homage to broad influences ranging from Sly Stone to Johnny Cash by Jack Britton Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Raphael Saadiq is living a pretty good life right now.
On a cold Thursday night in January, we find Saadiq and his quintet (guitar, bass, drums, two singers) sitting on stools under a dimly lit crystal chandelier in a spacious suite on the 16th floor of San Francisco’s classy Clift Hotel, breezily running through a few tunes from his new album, , which was shot on a set made to look like a swinging bachelor’s penthouse apartment, that’s what this room looks like.
” All three have more than earned their right to take on such a question.
Saadiq, of course, has been a vital source of songwriting and show-stopping performance in the modern R&B movement, dating back to his connections to Q-Tip and J Dilla in The Ummah collective, while Fields currently fronts The Expressions band and has been performing in soul groups almost non-stop his entire life. You take a chance and just go out, and walk out on faith,” Saadiq says, kicking off the conversation.
Of course the easy thing for an artist who is clearly cresting and in-demand—when I interviewed him a few days after the Clift event, our conversation was interrupted by a call from Mick Jagger!
—would be to offer audiences more of the same sound they love.
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They probably all wish their wives and girlfriend could be with them." This weekend, Saadiq will make his directorial debut shooting the video for "Be Here" with D'Angelo.
The clip will be filmed in and around Saadiq's studio, Blakeslee Recording Company, and on location in Los Angeles.
I changed it because Wiggins didn't sound like a singer's name and Saadiq meant 'man of his word' in Arabic. Steve is the holy grail to music for me and everyone speaks his language. I get the reward when the song is done and I hear it back on the speakers. I'm always trying to be grateful and attempting to be consistent.
Just to be around someone who is that great is amazing. It's great to be recognised by the Academy - it's a great Academy - but I just love music. The reward is when you make the music, not when you get the medal. When you love what you do, it pays off, and that's the best reward you could have.
That disc, with its uncanny extrapolations on the traditional mid-’60s Motown sound, created quite a sensation and brought Saadiq a whole new audience—mostly young, mostly white folks who frankly were unaware of his long and illustrious history dating back to the smash late ’80s, early ’90s Oakland soul and new jack swing group Tony! No doubt many of the audiences who saw him play huge festivals such as Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, and Bumbershoot (he’s playing Coachella and South By Southwest this year) thought he was a new artist who’d just stepped off a bus from Detroit in 1965.
The crowds ate it up—loved the tight-fitting yellow suit he often wore, loved the Temptations dance moves, loved that smooth, elastic voice that moves so easily into Marvin Gaye/Eddie Kendricks territory but still sounds original—and Europe and Japan both fell in love with him, as well.
has had a career spanning four decades, and yet shows no signs of stopping.
With his new album Stone Rollin' out this month, Raphael talks about his journey to stardom and what we can expect from him this year.
And by the time Saadiq casually kicks into the album’s first tune—“Heart Attack,” which he admits is a nod to one of his idols, Sly Stone—the crowd of about 75 local writers, music biz types, and a few friends from his days across the bay in Oakland, is well-lubricated and in a good mood. Handsome, relaxed, dressed head to toe in black (including his trademark black-framed glasses), and cradling a Telecaster on his lap, Saadiq tells stories about his new songs and even takes questions from the audience.
The handful of tunes he performs run the gamut from the rockabilly shuffle “Daydreams” (inspired by Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, he says) to traditional soul-flavored tunes more reminiscent of his hugely popular 2008 album . ; the short-lived R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl (Saadiq, En Vogue’s Dawn Morrison, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad); and his solo albums.