Having been a follower of the work that he did with Tony Toni Tone, I then watched him re-invent himself alongside Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Dawn Robinson within the supergroup ”Lucy Pearl” in the 2000s, only to then remain captured by his timeless solo projects.
Raphael Saadiq has always been a prominent figure when we have song-versations about adult contemporary music, of course under the umbrella of Hip Hop, Neo Soul, Gospel then RnB and not forgetting his contribution to New Jack Swing in the mid to late 1990s. Looking back, the only reason we were happy to oblige him and follow his music was because; one, we trusted the artistry and two, he has always had a proven track record not only through his own music but we’ve also seen through his various collaborations with the likes of Solange, Mick Jagger and D’Angelo, that evident ” Midas” Saadiq touch, which ceaselessly seems to hit the right notes, every single time.
Like his mentor, the late Prince Rogers Nelson, Raphael has been celebrated for “melody and space over rhythms” whilst slipping between genres with accurate authenticity and command, it is unlikely that any discerning ear and Saadiq purist will frown at his latest offering, Jimmy Lee.
Unlike his usual balladry and overflowing sing-alongs, Jimmy Lee gives you a distinct sense of memorial, he reveals his true feelings and accounts on events that have been a part of his life, and it is almost as if he is finally able to get “somethings” off his chest. Through music.
Truthfully, this project won’t necessarily appeal to all types of listeners, others will forever be loyal to that 90’s appeal and many will also be drawn to the solo offerings, however from a “follower” point of view, one is always willing to give the next idea a listen, even if it’s just once.
Jimmy Lee – The Project.
Raphael Saadiq has been quoted saying that ” Jimmy Lee is a project that I didn’t want to make but I had to make ” He dedicates the project to his brother whom he lost to drugs alongside three other dead siblings and together they make up the subject matter of this project as he “takes the listener on various journeys through addiction, loss and the sorrow that is experienced by those around them, then there’s the helplessness that one feels that is also associated with these experiences” he describes.
The album opens up with the somewhat grungy over his signature bass line ”Sinners Prayer” an outcry from an addict calling to a higher being for sympathy and it is followed immediately by “So Ready” which is also a perspective from this addict in what seems to be a remorseful ” reach out.
Another standout song on the project is “Rikers Island” which is a statement Raphael is making with the plight to highlight the abominable effects of incarcerated young African Americans today.
Do lookout for more “perspective” songs on the project like the currently trending ” The World is Drunk”, So Ready” and “Something keeps calling” featuring Rob “Fonksta” Bacon on guitar, ” It’s darker in storytelling. Not really fast, but it’s a little aggressive “Saadiq laments.
The project closes with an uncredited collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on the song ” Rear View” with quotables such as ” How can I lead the world when I’m scared to try” and the haunting “Why should I need the world, we all gon’ die” This particular composition embodies that traditional bass line, again and is reminiscent of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Brooklyn Zoo” where the same sample also appears on Alicia Keys’ “Girlfriend” (Songs in A Minor).
Jimmy Lee is thought-provoking, passionate and a demonstrative expression of grief. It is a project depicting departure and addiction with both unease and authority.
Raphael Saadiq on this project seeks soul music as a tool and embraces darkness only just, to shed the light.
True fans will appreciate such honesty and abruptness whilst the rest will find it different and incoherent, yet something familiar and spellbinding echoes throughout.
Writer: Ngwako Malakalaka.