Singer, record producer and songwriter Raphael Saadiq has produced tracks for a number of R&B heavyweights, such as Mary J. Blige and John Legend, as well as releasing a number of critically-acclaimed records, both as a member of Tony! Toni! Toné! and as a solo artist.
Raphael Saadiq grew up in a musical family and neighborhood. The Oakland native was engrossed in music as a child. He started playing bass at the age of six, taught by an older brother — among a dozen other siblings in a blended family — and received additional tutelage from some of the fellow budding musicians in his community. Before long, he was playing in groups, first as a kid with the Gospel Hummingbirds, and benefitted from the strong music program at Castlemont High School.
Shortly after he turned 18, he heard about auditions for Sheila E’s backing band on Prince’s “Parade” tour and landed the role of bass player. After the tour, Raphael returned to Oakland and continued his professional career with the R&B dance trio Tony! Toni! Toné! The band became major R&B stars throughout the late 1980s and 1990s.
Raphael’s next project was the group Lucy Pearl, with Dawn Robinson of En Vogue and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest. His biggest solo hit came in 1995, with the release of “Ask of You,” which peaked at number 19 in the U.S. His debut solo album titled “Instant Vintage” was released in 2002 and earned him five Grammy nominations. This was followed by “Ray Ray” in 2004 and a two-disc live album, “All the Hits At the House of Blues.” His third solo LP, “The Way I See It” released in 2008, earned three Grammy nominations, including Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals for “Never Give You Up,” which featured Stevie Wonder and CJ Hilton.
Throughout the years, while also releasing additional solo LPs, Raphael surfaced on recordings by collaborators crossing cultures and generations, from Larry Graham, Booker T. Jones, and Elton John to Andra Day, Big K.R.I.T., and Miguel. Most prominently, he was a key factor in Solange’s number one 2016 album “A Seat at the Table” as the co-writer and co-producer of eight songs, including “Cranes in the Sky,” and also credited beside the singer as executive producer.
As a producer, Raphael has worked on a number of successful tracks by artists including Otis and Shugg, D’Angelo, Tupac Shakur and Joss Stone. He has also collaborated with the likes of Whitney Houston, the Isley Brothers, and Erykah Badu. In 2011, Raphael led the band backing Rolling Stones’ singer Mick Jagger for his performance of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” at the 53rd Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles. In 2002, Raphael founded his own record label, Pookie Entertainment.