Raphael Saadiq: Timing Is Finally Right For Solo Set

Raphael Saadiq isn't stressing over how many units his Universal solo debut, "Instant Vintage," will sell following its June 11 release.

Raphael Saadiq isn't stressing over how many units his Universal solo debut, "Instant Vintage," will sell following its June 11 release. "Between the day I heard my album after it was done and the first time I heard the single ["Be Here," featuring D'Angelo] on-air, I felt like I'd already sold 2 million copies," says a smiling Saadiq during a timeout at his Los Angeles-area recording studio. "It was like 'Wow, the record's complete and I'm on the radio. I've done it.'"

Granted, Saadiq is quite familiar with the music industry's exclusive million-selling neighborhood, thanks to card-carrying membership in the groups Tony! Toni! Tone! and Lucy Pearl, plus production stints with, among others, D'Angelo (2000 Grammy Award winner for the single "Untitled").

However, this time around the singer/tunesmith/musician exposes his creative muse for the first time on a full-length album.

"I'm a team player," says Saadiq, whose earlier solo forays include "Ask of You," from 1995's "Higher Learning" soundtrack, as well as an additional two R&B-charting singles. "Because of that, this was the hardest thing to do. I never liked the fact that people thought I always wanted to be a solo singer. Everything has its time. The easiest thing about this project was the singing. When I sing, that's when everything feels right."

Once he entered the right "zone," it only took Saadiq about seven months to complete the record with assistance from Jake & the Phatman, Raymond Murray, and others. The end result is a retro-laced contemporary concoction of R&B, soul, hip-hop, funk, rock, jazz, and doo-wop that he's christened "gospeldelic."

Adding to the album's easygoing, jam-session vibe were largely unscripted guest appearances by such artists as Angie Stone, TLC's T-Boz, Calvin Richardson, Hi-Tek, and Saadiq's older brother, Randy Wiggins. "It was a total hang," recalls Saadiq, who while recording also produced tracks for Macy Gray, TLC, the Isley Brothers, Joi, Kelly Price, and others. "Everyone just seemed to drop by."

In addition to the lead single (currently No. 75 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart), standout tracks on "Instant Village" include the autobiographical "Doing What I Can," the groovin' Stone/Richardson duet "Excuse Me," the feel-good "Faithful," and the hometown nod "Uptown." There's also the Earth, Wind & Fire-esque "Can You Feel Me" with Detroit newcomer Skyy, which Saadiq wrote the night Aaliyah died. He recalls, "I was just feeling kind of 'angel-y' about her."

"I'm a sloppy perfectionist who makes music for nine-to-five people," says Saadiq. "I don't like to make the music perfect, but I do like to get a feeling out of it. I like to reach people."

Saadiq will kick off a promotional tour that begins in mid-May, rolls through mid-June, and stops in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and eight other cities. He will go out on the road with a full band and labelmate/Lucy Pearl cohort Joi.

Excerpted from the May 18, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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