I’d love to turn this into a Raphael Saadiq appreciation post, but I’ve kind of already done that throughout the D’aily. He collaborated frequently with D’Angelo back in the day. He’s a frequent collaborator with a lot of my favorite artists. He’s done great work consistently for over three decades, yet I’m guessing if you walk up to most people – even music lovers – and ask them who Raphael Saadiq is they’ll have no idea. Screw it, I’m gonna throw together a quick timeline to get us up to today’s song, “Be Here” right now.
Ray Wiggins, a.k.a. Raphael Saadiq, actually spent a brief period touring with Prince in the late-1980s. He and Sheila E. are both Oakland, California, natives, as were many of the members of Sheila’s band who ended up joining Prince during the Sign ‘O’ the Times era. He played in Sheila’s band briefly opening for Prince, but it didn’t last for long. Check out this post to learn more about the hilarious way he found out he was let go from Prince’s tour. Even better, listen to his entire interview with Questlove from the Questlove Supreme podcast here. Even if you’ve never heard of Saadiq, you’ll love some of the stories he tells. One of my favorite podcast interviews ever.
Saadiq then teamed up with his brother and his cousin to form R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! I will refer to them as the Tonyies from this point on because it’s easier to type. The Tonyies were and still are underrated. If I could sum up Saadiq in one word, that’s it: underrated. After a few classic, multi-platinum albums – remember “Feels Good” and “Anniversary” and “If I Had No Loot” and “Lay Your Head on My Pillow” and “Let’s Get Down” and “House Party II“to name a few. Saadiq is a bassist by trade and The Tonyies were playing their music unlike a lot of their R&B contemporaries at the time. Saadiq also possesses a clean, unmistakable voice. He has a signature sound that’s only his.
Unfortunately the Tonyies disbanded, and while Saadiq has released five solo albums in 20 years, he claims he’s always preferred to collaborate with others. The list is long and distinguished: Solange, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Erykah Badu, Steve Wonder, Mick Jagger, The Roots, Elton John, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, and of course, D’Angelo just to name a few.
His work with D’Angelo goes back to his first album. Saadiq wrote “Lady” and claims many passed on it before D’Angelo took it. They performed it together on The Chris Rock Show Valentine’s Day episode in 1997. He co-wrote and performed on “Untitled” and has more stories about that experience as well. They were rumored to be starting a supergroup with Q-Tip called Lynwood Rose but it never materialized. After all that work together on D’Angelo albums it was only fitting that they collaborated on something for a Saadiq album.
In 2002 Raphael Saadiq released his solo debut called Instant Vintage and the name was fitting. Saadiq likes to call his genre of music “gospeldelic” and it’s really a beautiful combination of not only genres but eras. You’ll hear R&B, soul, funk, gospel, hip hop, and blues in his music, but you’ll also hear different decades. His entire album The Way I See It is like a throwback to the 1960s. But, on Instant Vintage he did as good a job as ever combining genres to make his own sound.
The second single from that album was “Be Here” and it’s simply Saadiq and D’Angelo trading verses about how they miss their ladies even while doing mundane, every day tasks. Saadiq’s strength as a bassist shines as it’s the first thing that jumps out at me musically in the song. My only complaint about the song is that the two never really sing together until the very end. They swap verses, and even during their choruses the harmonies you hear are them as individuals. It’s not until the final verse that you hear them harmonize together and it’s too bad because they each have unique tones to their voices that blend well together.
From a D’Angelo standpoint “Be Here” gave me false hope. It was released two years after Voodoo and he hadn’t really done anything since. At that point we were all just hoping it wasn’t going to be five years between albums like it was between his first two. Hearing him on “Be Here” and knowing that he was working on music gave us all hope that we’d hear more sooner than later. Little did we know.
Here’s a fun fact about “Be Here” that I’ll need to have checked: I believe that “Be Here” is D”Angelo’s final music video. I’m quite sure he hasn’t appeared in one since. He didn’t do any videos for Black Messiah. I can think of several collaborations over the years, but not one with a video. D simply chooses to focus on music and stay out of the spotlight.
“Be Here” ended up being nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2003, Best R&B Song and Best Urban/Alternative Performance. It lost both. Best Urban/Alternative Performance went to India.Arie and Best R&B Song actually went to Raphael Saadiq, among others. He co-wrote the winning song “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)” by Erykah Badu and Common. Somehow it’s Saadiq’s only Grammy win in 15 nominations. Like I said…underrated.
I guess I did end up turning this into a Saadiq appreciation post. He deserves it. D’Angelo has recorded some amazing songs with other artists, but “Be Here” is one of the best. I hope Saadiq is in D’s ear convincing him to get back in the studio and get some more music done. Even better if they were to record it together. There are still a few more great duets coming up on the D’aily, but tomorrow is not one of them. I have actually referred to tomorrow’s song as my favorite D’Angelo track of all-time. At one point for one of my websites I attempted to rank D’Angelo’s songs and had this song listed as #1. This list was created pre-Black Messiah if I’m not mistaken. I’m not sure I still agree with that assessment, but if tomorrow’s song is not at the top of the list, it’s close. I’ll reveal that on Thursday. As for today, your assignment is to listen to either Stone Rollin’ or Jimmy Lee by Raphael Saadiq and show that man his respect. I’ll be back tomorrow with an all-time great. Good day to you.