Published on August 11th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Raphael Saadiq On His New Album “Jimmy Lee,” His Favorite TV Shows & His Writing Process
Raphael Saadiq is a Grammy Award-winning musician, songwriter and producer who has worked with some of the biggest names in pop, R&B and hip-hop, including Solange, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Elton John and D’Angelo. Saadiq has been named to the “100 Most Influential People” list of Time Magazine, and in 2018, he received an Academy Award nomination in the category of “Best Original Song” for “Mighty River” from the film Mudbound, which he co-wrote with Mary J. Blige. He is also the composer in residence for Issa Rae’s hit HBO show Insecure.
Saadiq’s latest solo album is Jimmy Lee, his full-length studio effort in eight years. Due out August 23rd via Columbia Records, Jimmy Lee is the follow-up to 2011’s Stone Rollin’. It was self-produced by Saadiq and recorded at Blakeslee Recording Co. in North Hollywood. The album features contributions from Brook D’Leau, Kendrick Lamar, and A Tribe Called Quest’s DJ, Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Raphael Saadiq by phone on the afternoon of August 9, 2019. Unfortunately, due to a poor telephone connection, the audio from our interview did not come out well enough for podcasting or even full-on transcribing; an explanation of why that happened is included below. But in listening closely, I was able to learn a lot about Saadiq. Below are 10 things I learned about the popular artist as a result of our mid-day telephone conversation.
#1 – Raphael Saadiq can ride a bike.
I learned this one the hard way. He was doing our interview while riding a bike on the way back to the studio. Hence, the loud wind noises and drop-outs that presumably led to our interview difficulties. Kind of funny in retrospect.
#2 – He does not miss playing in a band.
Many people first learned about Raphael Saadiq from his years of playing with Tony! Toni! Toné! Beyond that he was a part of the supergroup Lucy Pearl. I asked if he missed playing in a band, and he answered no. Why is that? Because he views “Raphael Saadiq” as a proper band, and the musicians on-stage with him as bandmates and not just “his” sidemen.
#3 – His earliest musical goals were not necessarily to be a huge artist or performer.
Saadiq wanted to be a producer from the get-go. He also want to score film and television projects from early on. In other words, Tony! Toni! Toné! was never the end-game for him.
#4 – He remembers his first film-related project well.
The first film he had done scoring or any sort of composing for, you ask? That was John Singleton’s Boyz In The Hood, which featured “Me And You” by Tony! Toni! Toné!, which Saadiq had produced.
#5 – The cameos on Jimmy Lee happened organically.
As noted above, Saadiq’s latest album features contributions from Brook D’Leau, Kendrick Lamar, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. These artist appearances were not the by-product of well-planned writing sessions. Rather, they came about from artist-friends just dropping by the studio.
#6 – There is still plenty he wants to accomplish.
A big fan of movies altogether, Raphael Saadiq hopes to eventually direct and/or produce a feature-length film which he also would have written and produced the original music for.
#7 – The man watches a lot of television.
Among his favorite recent series are Game Of Thrones, Stranger Things and Breaking Bad. As per favorite films, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy movies are regular go-to’s for him as of late.
#8 – Restaurants are a big part of his life.
When asked if he has music playing at home at all times, Saadiq steered the conversation towards discovering and listening to a lot of music while out at restaurants and relying on Shazam to help him pick out the latest and greatest. As for restaurants themselves, he stated that he “can eat all day.”
#9 – He writes a lot of music.
While Saadiq said that he does not write music everyday, he does write often and has a lot of unfinished ideas. He writes on both piano and guitar, although primarily on piano, even though he does not see himself as a great pianist. He has written on the piano at his mother’s home, on guitars bought at pawn shops, and at all sorts of locales all over the place over the years.
#10 – A follow-up to Jimmy Lee is already in-sight.
Don’t expect it to take eight years for the follow-up album to Jimmy Lee to see the light of day. Raphael Saadiq has already begun writing it. But in the meantime, you can see him at the El Rey in L.A., North Carolina’s Hopscotch Festival, Atlanta’s ONE Musicfest and New York’s Music Hall Of Williamsburg.
More on all things Raphael Saadiq can be found online at www.raphaelsaadiqmusic.com.