Raphael Saadiq is a renaissance man. When the respected singer-songwriter-producer isn’t on the road performing his latest material, such as the critically acclaimed, ‘60s soul inspired album The Way I See It, he is overseeing his video game development company IllFonic. And then there’s his role as an executive producer of an upcoming sitcom pilot called Love That Girl! starring The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Tatyana Ali.
But when Saadiq, who has worked with everyone from Whitney Houston and Erykah Badu to Snoop Dogg and Ludacris, talks about music, it’s obvious where his true passion remains. “I just felt like as an artist you always do what you like first,” he says of the continued positive response to Way I See It, which was released in September of 2008. “You build that fan base that would like to see you do different things. That ‘60’s music was the soundtrack to my life. I didn’t want to try to completely fit into what’s going on right now even though I like some of the newer stuff out right now. I felt like the music of the ‘60s was all around the world.”
Still, Saadiq says he is proud of his past work as a member of the influential late ‘80s/early ‘90s R&B act Tony! Toni! Toné!. The band, which went on to release one gold (starting with 1988’s Who?) and three platinum plus albums (The Revival, Sons of Soul, and their last project 1997’s House of Music) was a product of the New Jack Swing era sparked by Teddy Riley.
“Back in the day, when it was Guy, Keith Sweat, and Tony! Toni! Toné!, the black music executives were just getting their new jobs,” he recalls. “They were putting a lot of people on so a lot of music was coming out of New York. Everything was so brand new. If you wasn’t a strong band, artist or producer it was up to you to live on your own.”
But the question Saadiq continues to get on a regular bases is will there ever be a Tony! Toni! Toné! reunion? “For me it’s been a struggle,” he says of the possibilities of re-grouping. “I love the Tony’s. People always ask me would I ever do it again. But after three albums of putting my records together like I am now, I don’t think so.”
Saadiq is set to perform at SXSW music festival at the AOL Spinner Music on March 19. —Keith Murphy