It took 20 years, two groups and two solo albums, but soul singer Raphael Saadiq finally feels completely comfortable in the spotlight.
After making his debut in the late 1980s with classic R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone! and then forming Lucy Pearl in 2000 with other ex-band members (En Vogue's Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad), the 42-year-old says he's become the leader he always wanted to be.
With his recently released third solo record, "The Way I See It," Saadiq hopes to link generations. And while Saadiq hopes music fans _ both young and old _ will doo-wop to his Motown-inspired CD, critics have had their say. Saadiq recently earned three Grammy nominations and iTunes' editorial team named his disc best album of 2008.
AP: The sound is very '60s-inspired and old school. How did you decide to put that together?
Raphael Saadiq: I just headed in that direction and I never looked back and at the end of this record I had this record, this one cohesive thing. ... I didn't really think about any genre, I knew that the music was worldwide from the beginning. I knew everybody could love this music. ... I'm a 60's baby, so when I was in mom's womb this music was playing at the time, so it's probably just a natural.
AP: You've been in the music industry for 20 years now _ why this sound at this time?
Raphael Saadiq: I would just say it's something that's been chasing me for a long time (and) it's something that I enjoy in my car. You get in my car and that's what you would be hearing. ... I wanted to reflect on things that had a long life value, that had resale value. Like a house, you don't want to get a track home, you get something you can sell right away (laughs).
AP: You seem really content at this point.
Raphael Saadiq: It's weird, I feel like I'm most comfortable now. ... I know people love the early Tony stuff of course and the Lucy Pearl (stuff), (but) this is where I feel most comfortable at and it's probably just taken me some time to be on my own, as an artist on my own. I've never been the type of artist or person who wanted to be a solo singer even though it might seem like that because I was a lead singer, but I'm a bass player first. Like I wasn't the guy in the group who wanted to jump out of the group (and say), "Give me my solo deal." I was never that guy. ... I finally grabbed something and said, "I'm going to live this."
AP: How have you grown since being in two groups and releasing two solo records?
Raphael Saadiq: I wasn't able to jump out of (Tony! Toni! Tone!) and jump into Lucy Pearl and be the leader that I needed to be to make that thing carry on, to make it work like it should have. But once things kind of went sour, I just kind of fell back and it's sort of my personality to fall back and if something doesn't work you kind of keep it moving. But ... I couldn't have that attitude anymore. (The) attitude I have now is, go out and get it, present it, get on the mic, sell it, be a star, but still maintain who you are as a person and I think that those ingredients work for me. ... I'm not mad about the journey that it's been but it's been a little bit of a difficult one.
AP: What's been difficult?
Raphael Saadiq: I've been through a lot. I've lost three brothers and a sister since I've been in this business and I was making records during those deaths. So if you get through that, this is really nothing. The music saves us and that's what being a true artist is.
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