Raphael Saadiq: Instant Vintage

Felicia Pride

Raphael Saadiq

Instant Vintage

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2002-06-11
UK Release Date: Available as import

No need to spend hours thinking of a clever marketing ilk for Raphael Saadiq's solo project because he has willingly provided one for the music executives to run with. I haven't seen gospeldelic as a category on as of yet, but possibly soon, with Saadiq leading the way to prosperity. Even though, gospeldelic sounds more like a witty description for the gospel according to Kurt Franklin.

The introduction to Raphael Saadiq's first ever solo excursion, Instant Vintage begins with a brief rockumentary of his life exploiting his musical roots in Tony!Toni!Tone! and asserting him as founder of Lucy Pearl. During the smoothly performed bio, you hear, "Think of the word gospeldelic, you can only think of one person, Raphael Saadiq". Meanwhile, Raphael sings in the background, "I'm only trying to be the best that I can". So whether the world is ready to embrace his gospel, Raphael has done more than the best he can with Instant Vintage. But did we ever really know his individual depths?

The idea of vintage sound is steadily becoming a capitalized market. Executives have seen the black and white spots of a promising cash cow and have jumped on the previously empty bandwagon. Coca-Cola and its nu-soul commercials feature the likes of Jaguar Wright and the Roots. However, neo-soul's growing popularity propels dissention and debate especially regarding its originators. The Mint Condition/Tony!Toni!Tone! camp base their entire argument on the fact that Raphael and his family were using live instrumentation during the infamous new jack swing era, thus, props need to be properly acknowledged. They are partly right, though. Tony!Toni!Tone! is a group that to this day, does not get the recognition it naturally deserves. Hopefully that plague of doubt will not follow Raphael's efforts.

To calm your worries, Instant Vintage is not an exhumed unreleased Tony!Toni!Tone! album, piggybacking on old tunes. You won't hear "It Never Rains in Southern California" with Puffy ranting, "this is the remix". You're getting Raphael pure, untainted by group dynamics, with a sound that's forward moving in reverse. This is all, however, despite the fact that the two times I've seen him live since the release, he's performed mostly Tony!Toni!Tone! classics. But when half the audience comes specifically to hear "Just Me and You", what's a man to do? The closest you'll come to the Tony!Toni!Tone! sound is the track "Faithful", with classic Saadiqadelic lyrics, "I won't cheat on you / I won't do it no more/Like I did before". Thanks for the heartfelt reassurance, Raphael.

Mercifully, the debut isn't flooded with superfluous guest appearances, he chose his disciples carefully. With the main contributors being the deacon of neo-soul, D'Angelo and his deaconess, Angie Stone (well she's not D'Angelo's anymore, according to her songs on her sophomore album Mahogany Soul).

Be prepared, there is a never-in-a-million-years shocker collaborations on the album, kind of like Eminem and Elton John. Okay not that bizarre. But to this day, I have never heard an artist reply when asked who they'd like to work with, "I'd really like to work with T-Boz". Maybe Raphael is trying to prove that he can make the impossible work, or maybe it's another crazy business deal. Either way, I wasn't mad at him, like I thought I'd be. Her vocals blend purposefully with the track, making her voice the background for the music. In "Different Times" T-Boz and Saadiq's spiritual sides (it's not called Gospeldelic for any old reason) are exposed as he proclaims "My friend won't let you down / He's always been around/that's one thing I know for sure / Even when I'm wrong / He's right at my door".

"People" is a socioeconomic musical sermon shouted over a funk-inspired track blasting everything and everyone from the government, to the condition of the ghetto, to backstabbers. Equally socially-addressing, "Uptown" is a modern rendition of The Jefferson's, "Moving on Up". Over a smooth, relaxed rhythm, Raphael pays homage to his roots on the streets of Oakland, California, simultaneously dispelling the myth that you can't move with opportunity especially when amongst stagnation. Other salient tracks include "Still Ray" with its tuba surprise, "You're the One That I Like" an ear-pleaser with depth, and "Tick Tock" a definite vintage tribute.

A thorough 15-minute explanation of gospeldelic can be found in the last track, "Skyy, Can You Feel Me", a multifarious collective that pans out to instrumental representing the essence of Raphael's artistry.

Instant Vintage is worthy simply because Raphael is free to explore his creative limits, producing, writing and playing multiple instruments. Lucy Pearl is genius in concept but the execution is a bit more nebulous and its existence seems ephemeral. The introduction of Joi was lost and has yet to be found. Joi, who has traveled the lengths of the underground, exudes an independence that doesn't seem fitting for any group decision-making model. Let the Star Kitty roam free and let the minister of gospeldelic lead his self-proclaimed ministry. Their individualities should be preserved, it's sometimes best that way.

For how else would we've been able to become intimate with this quiet musical enigma? Raphael has been a silent puissance behind notable music from the likes of D'Angelo, the Isley Brothers, Macy Gray, and not to be forgotten, Tony!Toni!Tone!. Finally he is crusading for his own cause which proves to be a worthy one. As he says in "Be Here", he has "more than a big stick and some money".





Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.