Not a lot of people can say they’ve been in this fickle record industry for twenty-one years but songwriter, producer, and musician Raphael Saadiq has been able to reinvent himself time and time again while never forgetting his roots. With his latest effort comprised and his album The Way I See It, Saadiq gives us the opportunity to see music from his point of view. If it has the ‘60s and ‘70s feel to it, don’t worry, that was the point. From a man born in sunny California between Dr. Dre and N.W.A. Saadiq also grew up around Sly and the Family Stone as well as Jimi Hendrix and his musical memory would expand from there. The industry hasn’t always treated Mr. Saadiq with the greatest courtesy but the former crooner of Tony! Toni! Tone! Never made music for the radio and maybe this is why longevity is his middle name. Clutch had the opportunity to converse with the at times introverted musician and break down the inspiration behind his new work, The Way I See It.
Clutch: Talk about the first track “Sure Hope you Mean It.”
Raphael Saadiq: For me it was like how many people were in the Temptations five? And I just thought about the Temptations singing to a White audience and singing something so soulful was what was going through my mind because those were the songs they were bussing’ to all White schools and walking in through the back door and just goin’ out and killin’ it no matter who was in front of them. So I kind of felt like at this point making this kind of music singing it to a Black crowd is like singing it to a White crowd in the ‘60s, they gonna look at you kind of strange so its just about having that type of attitude to take over the world with this kind of music.
Clutch: The next track is “100-Yard Dash” and you actually mention that people who were fans of Tony! Toni! Tone! Would really appreciate this track.
Raphael Saadiq: Yeah, I felt like people would appreciate it from that standpoint because I’m singing with one of the higher voices I’m singing on the record and in the Tonys’ I was singing that high all the time. People kind of bug out when they hear it and go wow he still sounds the same and its just where the song took me, I was kind of surprised when it was done because I waited for a minute before I sang on it; I did all the vocals in a room by myself so I kind of acted how I wanted to act and go crazy and whil’ out. “100-Yard Dash” is sort of a true song too because I’m always running from some crazy girl so (laughs).
Clutch: “Keep Marchin’” is representative of your dealings with the record industry and all that trials and tribulations that can bring to any artist of any caliber.
Raphael Saadiq: Definitely subconsciously I think like that keep marchin’ and keep going forward no matter if they say this industry is dying and going to hell you have to go out like the band on the Titanic and just play until the boat sinks and don’t play it safe, I never made this record for radio I made this record for the way I was feeling and that’s why I titled the record The Way I see It. I also knew in the back of my mind there are a lot of people out there that would appreciate this music also.
Clutch: Do you feel like you’re trying to let the up and coming artists of today know that this is what music can sound like as well?
Raphael Saadiq: No, I’m not trying to save it at all, I just don’t have a short memory I think that way when I pick up an instrument that’s just the way that my mind works and that’s the way that I dream and any great producer or artist always likes to reflect on something great.
Clutch: Talk about the song “Big Easy” and the motivation behind that.
Raphael Saadiq: “Big Easy” is definitely influenced by Hurricane Katrina and at the time I was in the studio making my record and I was watching “When the Levees Broke” and just watching the guy that had to leave his mom on the side of the stadium, hop on a bus and then just cover her up with a blanket and go to Houston made me feel like what’s going wrong? Is this world that cold that you could just be a statistic? At the time I didn’t want to grasp that this could really ever happen and my only way of getting it out was to make a song about it and it was something that felt good because it was energetic at the same time and I didn’t want it to sound sad or call it Katrina because I didn’t want to feel like I was jumping on the band wagon and so I called it “Big Easy.” People hear and they dance to it but they don’t really know what I’m talkin’ about so.
Clutch: You also mentioned that your Uncle is from Louisiana and he’d been in the military.
Raphael Saddiq: My whole family is from Louisiana and I’m the only city boy that’s not from Louisiana. I have a lot of family in New Orleans, Shreveport, and Monroe.
Clutch: The next track is “Just One Kiss.”
Raphael Saadiq: “Just One Kiss” was more of like a Eddie Kendricks and Tami Terrell-Smokey Robinson type of feel and it just had the good left-hand finger snap to it and your coolin’ out and you have on the nice suit and the Cadillac is outside and you’re drivin’ to the nearest downtown club and its just one of those that you want people to feel like there’s no problems in the world. I was basically making this record to say, it might have been bad at that point but those type of records were able to make people feel good.
Clutch: Do you ever think about how you would’ve turned out if you would have been born in the ‘60s or ‘70s?
Raphael Saadiq: Oh yeah that was my dream, I think I should’ve been born in the ‘30s, if I was born in that day I could’ve been kickin’ it with the best. Now its like I’m a dinosaur with all these hybrids which is dope because a lot of them are my friends and they get it but my love was playing that type of music and I think there’s so much room for people to do what they want to do. For the new artists its like they have to find a way to do what they do for a long time and that’s really the goal.
Clutch: The next record was “Love That Girl.”
Raphael Saadiq: That’s my dream with Eddie Kendricks and I almost got the opportunity to work with him right before he passed away so that was definitely my approach to that record.
Clutch: Talk about “Callin’”, which had a real Latin feel to it.
Raphael Saadiq: Yeah that was from my Latin roots I grew up with a lot of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and on the west coast “Callin’” is definitely for the majestic low-ridin’ crew. The media tries to blow us up and make it seem like we’re always fighting (Hispanic-Americans & African-Americans) but they love music and so I kind of did that for them.
Clutch: You followed that up with “Staying in Love.”
Raphael Saadiq: Definitely got the inspiration from the Four Tops and I played with my voice in the backgrounds.
Clutch: One of the best records for me on the whole album was “Oh Girl.”
Raphael Saadiq: Yeah, that’s kind of my pimped out gangsta track, the drums are really just bangin and then the subtleness of the vocals and then the oh girl and it kind of happened like that and it was definitely a Delfonics type feel during the late ‘60s but early ‘70s. The Delfonics were mad cool and real pimped out but they also had “La La La Means I Love You”, which was number one over in Europe. So I try to lean towards things that can be number one around the world and make people reminisce on what they were going through at that time.
Clutch: Is that your goal every time you go out and make music to make people reflect on those highlights and periods in their lives?
Raphael Saadiq: Yeah, definitely, that’s how music should be, I want to jab people in the head with this kind of music and have them fall back a little. Like they don’t want that feeling again but they want to be aware.
Clutch: Finally the last joint on the album “Sometimes” which seems like something you do on all your albums is reflecting back on your Charles Ray Wiggins years.
Raphael Saadiq: That’s just giving dap to my moms and grandmother and the people who raised me in the neighborhood to let them know its easy but not as easy as it seems all the time and sometimes we have to back up and cry but I’m just giving thanks to the people that helped me along the way.