R&B Star Raphael Saadiq Explores Addiction And Loss In 'Jimmy Lee'
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Jimmy Lee was a he's my older brother and we're fifteen years his apart in age really good friend of mine and he is also very funny guy very loving and guy. Everybody in the family really cared about him really loved him but he he he had a heroin addiction at a very very young age from what I hear us you know maybe maybe twenty twenty years old or something like that so as. I got to know him he was pretty much. You know pretty much addicted so I only knew even more way so he was very loving guy so you know knew him mostly as an adult not so much growing up while guess so yeah grownup for me. Yeah I knew him you don't want while I was growing up in you know of course he was like I say he was fifteen years older than me so he came. I'm from my parents were in Monroe Louisiana and they came to Oakland so he was born in Monroe and then they came to Oakland. I was conceived here casino in the Bay area in Oakland. What was it like dealing with the tragedy of his death before this album came out. How if you kind of reconciled wrestled with it compartmentalized compartmentalized it? What's it been like before now will before before Jimmy Pass Away. Mother Brother Alvie passed away. He was murdered mm-hmm. When I was seven years old you know from some type of actually it was a sister of half sister mine sir actual boyfriend so dealing with that at seven and then losing my brother another desmond to to a drug issue he actually murdered himself after that and then I lost my sister who was a graduated from cal State Hayward. She was the parole officer very great Blues Singer and she died in car accident so I dealt with like four things and Jimmy was the last one he was the last one so I've just always dealt with with with music and really just trying to make sure my mom and my dad was pretty much. You know okay. I had to be really strong for family so I think that's Adele with it. I was SORTA at that point. You sort of become the the the point guy in the family so. I didn't really have much time to more and I had to just you know at the time I didn't notice it. I guess I was which is just dive into music records listening to records just namo music for just any great music that I was country rock classic rock whatever ges diamonds any Sam Cooke record and just live inside the music so was music more kind of Cathartic and therapeutic for you before it became a possible career path before you on the path to being part of Tony Tony Tony. No musical was always a big part of my life me my my family. There was always instruments in house. There was always a piano and my dad always had a some type of fender tweed amp and a house and guitar. I would go walk out the house and make a left turn. It was always bands somewhere around me and you know just music always felt like there was something that really felt good in at home and outside of my house and I just once yes I learned how to play one song with another good player that was always walking around looking for guitar players to to play with the base and I couldn't play chords so I would just knock doc on everybody's door and see who played guitar keyboards and try to find a drummer. Dow was sort of my life. Let's talk about the album. This is your first album. In years as we mentioned it's named after your late brother gives a sense of what she wanted this album to do maybe that was different from previous albums that she put out. I I wanted this album to be really the voice of my body of divorce of my inner feelings and lyrically. I wanted to to ride from space base where I wasn't just talking about. You know what you know. The basic you know love stories and it's okay to talk about love we all we all needed and I've made my share of those records and you know after making the way I see it which of the sixty s motown record you know my my best impression of smokey Robinson and David Ruffin and then right onto stone Rollin was by you know more of my still a sixties record with a lot more more lower with stone rolling in a lot more distortion but this record I wanted to be my journey and you know talk about me. Talk about more personal things in my life and let people in on my life to say this is me. This is what my life has been I just I felt like I could touch. My inner saw a little bit better. Fide look a little deeper myself and also a I would hit some other people who have been dealt dealt with some of the things that I'm talking about. It and I feel like this is all around us every day and I wanted to see how close I can. I can go without uh-huh without making it a preachy sound record. You know sometime you can make a record. It sounds preachy. Nobody really wants to hear it in. I like I still wanted to make a great album agree record so I think the challenge for me was how can I talk about things that I never talked about on a record but also have a good record at the same time so that was I was trying to do yeah and there is a lot of subtlety to the album I mean it's it's very direct and clear lyrically in its themes but it doesn't feel like it's trying to hit you over the head with themes the pre- pretty obvious they're kind of unambiguous but it because they're on ambiguous they don't have to be preachy and we want to play a few tracks from the album one in particular called rikers island as we continue our conversation with Rafael CDC you do deal with addiction in the album. You also talk about mass incarceration in the tracks rikers island and rikers island redux. Here's part of that track rikers island assumes on Thursday go ahead. He says something rikers island from the new album. Jimmy Lee Rafael talk about that tracking what she wanted to convey their clearly that that verse that second versus all about somebody somebody kind of in Coordin- fearing being sent to to rikers island yes well like I said growing up with with with Jimmy. Jimmy spent a lot of time in prison like in Santa Rita Prison San Quentin and I would always on my way to studio in Sausalito. I'll stop the San Quentin property is like this beautiful massive property and I always see people standing standing in art part that was making art hard to my brother. Jimmy would always make me are are make some type of wood fixture and he will send it to me or he would have given to me and once I started started. You know synonymous people in prison. You know my brother. I've I felt like he was celebrity. Move we would get up on Saturday and the drive to the prison and you think your brother is some type of celebrity. 'cause we're all you know. SORTA packing up to go visit him and then once I figured out you know when I say like a let's let's go and he said he couldn't leave. started to realize he wasn't a celebrity. He was locked up using president and start looking at how many people were locked up in prison and how many lawyers when I looked at the the lawyers cars on other side of the fence there're. BMW's and you know the all these nice cars and now we're looking at the other side is fence. It's and I see all these Israeli. You know old cars and I could see how the system was making so much money off. You know people being locked up in prison and of course as you get older older you can watch a lot of youtube stories like Jay Z. Is You know and everybody's talking about rikers island. Everybody's trying to you know figure the system mount get people out of prison even crashing. His nose is getting out of prison but I've always had this thing about prison. Ah for my visiting my brother. Just I never understood why anybody WanNa go but then I started to figure out. Some people trap of some people as things are set up for them. I am you know to be locked up. Everybody in President is now supposed to be in prison so there's a lot of people wrongly imprisoned some people i. I won't say anybody belongs in prison. I say people do wrong things. In you. Know How do we how do we figure it out but you know it's just so many when I watched lashed Eva Dune as you know doc right I just I was really shocked about it. So yeah the the the netflix documentary thirteenth about mass incarceration in America. There's much more WANNA discuss with Euro. Fail as we continue and we'll talk more about the album Jimmy Lee. We've got some great questions and comments from some of your fans definitely have talk about some of your prior work with Tony Tony Tony and with Lucy Pearl. I'm Joshua Johnson and you're listening to Rafael CDC and to one A. 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I'm Joshua Johnson. We're talking with R&B superstar Rafael Sadique. His new album is called Jimmy Lee. I really really liked this album but I think the only thing about the album. That kind of made me go like what is that. It's only thirty nine minutes long like I was. I was getting into it it and then it was over and I just wanted more music. What made you decide to make the album less than an hour. I'm GonNa I feel like you know. There's so many hours in a day. People have so many things to do and I do too so you WanNa like I just want to give people a nice little dose. I feel like we all needed a you need a little drop of water of music in the world today and I just wanted to be a part of giving somebody just dose of it that they can listen to it. They could process it. Listen to learn it in in. We cannot be a part of something that very short but there's always a concert. There's always a show where I can extend the vamps in play a little bit longer. You know so that was sort of the idea. I also watch a lot of adults win the college chicken in a way to album to such. I just kind of you know that's how I watch. I watch cartoons like cartoons like what three seconds now sh- new cartoons right. We'll make the record like that. Yeah I hear you. I mean you you mentioned watching adult swim and cartoon network in there are more shows like you know robot chicken and snowbound universe that are fifteen minutes long that like the episode is between Eight and eleven minutes and so they can do in fifteen minute increments but I I also noticed that some albums kind of in the era of spotify and streaming tend to be longer than a typical album used to be. How do you find the digital revolution in music affecting the way that you make and release music? I think is great is some point. I think is great that people can just if you don't have any ways to put music. Got You know the you know the the Owais put music you have to have a label which I call labels the energy unlike CNN label so the energy I think is great for people to it just be able to make a song that night and drop it that night but also I think people get super excited and they make twenty three records when really if you put pig ten or eleven records it makes you pick your best and I feel like you put twenty three records. You you really only have eleven records in the rest of the wreckage. You just wanted wanted people to hear what people should hear those ten or eleven records. I think what's your song writing process like. How do you know when a song or when a track on an album is done for me. I think the record is done when I could listen to it in and I can hear all obvious stories. I can you all the parts and the for me. Is You know the guitars. is in the right spot when everything you know it's like moving in the house. You know when on the furniture is sitting right in for me. I I just know when the furniture is. I sit in the right place. Let me play some of your previous music. You've had quite a long career and I think a lot of folks. No you from your time in the group Tony Tony Tony One of our favorite groups are yours for the nineties with lots of hits including this this one I think yeah and Canada from Tony Tony Tony you wonder how you reflect on some of this music you and Tony Tony Tony had some stone cold jams in in that day that are just kind of indelible. Yeah it was pretty it was pretty amazing time in my life to to to become a songwriter and to write songs exactly matter to to people for a long time in I love that I love that time. I love that I love anniversary and you know every night sometime I just I just just sing it without any music and people just they sing when we will define things when people asking me to sing at their wedding and I'm like no. I'm really not a crooner guy. Ah More like a band Guy WanNA guitars drums from La Music and you know I don't have to decline in other times yeah. Although I will say you know on my mom's anniversary every year I'll call her up and I'll just put the phone to spotify and I'll plot thirty yes. She gets a good laugh at it because it's one of those. We've had eh like for such a long time. It's just one of those kind of you know. All those touchstone songs that music should be your music outlive you. That's what we all say Valencia emailed. I love Mr CDC. My favorite song is ask of you but I enjoy Tony Tony Tony Song to this day real talent. You can't beat it of gotTA. Check got your new album. We are speaking to Raphael Sadique about his new album Jimmy. We'll have more with Rafael in just a minute. 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NPR SPANISH-LANGUAGE PODCAST will take you around Latin America to show you the fascinating strange and compelling stories of the region subscribe and listen every Tuesday. This is one A. I'm Joshua Johnson. We're speaking with our. Nba Star Rafael Sadique you may know him from his work with the legendary group Tony Only Tony Tony Out of Oakland California. His new solo album is called Jimmy. Lee Cynthia emailed one word to describe Rafael Sadique Dope. I've always been a big fan of his music. Even named my first born son Sadique after him. I applaud him for making music that addresses so many issues that plague US especially the black and Brown community. I'm looking forward to diving deep into Jimmy. Lee with regards to that now kind of reflecting electing on where you are in your career. How do you balance making music that is more specifically socially conscious versus just making music that sensuous sore for fun. Well you know when you listen to your your your journey. Your music your journey. You threaten threat of music. You just always want to grow in and make you want to add onto what you've done. I think at this point you know wherever you're at in life issue reflect your record. It should reflect what you're saying. You know you can't live or honey. Some people can't some people can just I need to single. I need this record in you. Know Big ups to the people that can do that. I'm just a person who likes to reflect on where we're what I'M GONNA. Do what I'm living through and hopefully people are into that now. That's not saying that I will make maker the next record completely different. It has nothing to do with any social pro it probably won't I think my dad said used to say to me rest in peace. He say say to me. When you read the newspaper of Sun. Read the cartoon section. I because things are very serious so my next album may just be a fun album for people just like you know maybe go to the beach. Go on vacation or just do something wild so I like to give people choices not too long ago. We were visiting Minneapolis Saint Paul with series one across US America and I had the pleasure of being Minnesota public radio when they weren't the Minnesota State Fair and I share the stage with the current incarnation of Tony Tony Tony any chance of you and the ban getting back together again doing anymore projects in the future well. I'm thinking about what we're talking about doing an EP like just an EP and maybe doing I want a small run just to go out and thank fans and stuff or you know supporting us and also to show you some are my nephews and some of the kids in the family that you know we can still get together when you know what we do so that's that's here and there but there is a show that we're doing and I think next month there's there's a a bay area reunion with like. Mc Hammer digital underground and then I'm going to appear with me myself and Dwayne wiggins my brother and Timothy Christian Riley and we're GONNA do like we're GonNa do a show like a real full out Tony Show. Oh Hey I should ask you. Where did the name Tony Tony Tony come from because ninety all named Tony now actually came from Antonio Bandera he was in he was untouchables us and his name was Tony and the sharp shooter and he hired him to be a part of the gang and when they went to visit him the way his hair was very like a talion in slicked back. My brother used to have really fine slick air when he go to school and he's he had this joke. Senate teaches whenever call him Dwayne because his hair looks so slick they will call him. Tony Tony Tony like an Italian mobster and so one day we were planning this wedding reception in before we had a record deal. The three of us in the three of us were being like the police in covering sting songs type of things in the guy goes into group and my brother just looks at the gun goes. Don't eat Tony only donate when they said they was like Donny Donny Donny is like ooh has a Reagan now. What's his name group. We got it. We also got a question from cat who tweeted tweeted. If there's any chance of Lucy Pearl Union fingers crossed. We know that quite a few people remember at least this one of your big hits from Lucy per yourselves. Bob Redmon fits the extorted asked Mel. Let's north so glad that is now women sexual name donning. It's nice. We have a big guests older folks. I don't WanNa won't dance tonight by Lucy Pearl Raphael. What about chances of a Lucy Pearl Union. I'm not sure I mean I would love to do that but you know hey I'm. I'm very busy these days so it's Kinda hard to say what could happen in but I would love to do that but you know. I'm very very busy these days. I would just want you to know that there is at least one person studio one over for me who could not help don both her hands in the air when dance tonight star plant and she was she was just jamming getting the studio so just so you know just in case you're considering which one has has the most impact you at least sent one of our hosts. Jerry she. She had a Pavlovian response to Lucy Pearl. So just you just way okay that when she s she oakland Jerry I'm looking over Jerry. You're not from Oakland are you. I'm looking at it to see if she if she was are you from Oakland. Yes she is yes. She is yes she. Yes that's okay. I see all right. Well okay so maybe that maybe it we'll factor. Oh I'm sorry Oh she's not from Oakland. She's she's cool like an Oakland but she says somebody from Oakland so around the area so I thought maybe yeah Saint Louis. She says she's from Saint Louis and ecological city to Oakland. Yes and also a city with a strong musical. Legacy and heritage is kind of interesting to hear from from artists from Oakland what being from their means to them before. I let you go. I'm curious to know because a lot of our listeners listen to you. Who are you listening onto right now. Who is on your playlist. Who are you listening to right now but it's either inspiring you or that. Just that that you like that impresses you I've been listening to the prince originals a little bit and Lottery Charles Lota Lot of Etta James Little Bit Steve Lacy definitely always listen to neil young and Neil young he yeah no young love no young and Al Green. I feel like their records sonically sound similar a lot of drum sounds a like you know the drums and snare drums Alice Allison music sonically informalities and stuff like that but I like records the group's they make me you know hear them into see we're doing and that's how that's how. I like to make records people the grace. If you wanted to be like the great you've got to study the great so that's what I do Rafael City. His new album is called Jimmy leap. It's out now Rafael. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for talking to US thank you this conversation was produced by Jonquil and Hill and edited by Miranda full more. You can learn more about our team online at the one eight dot org slash staff. This program comes is to you from W. A. M. U. Part of American University in Washington distributed by NPR until we meet again. I'm Joshua Johnson. Thanks for listening. This is one A. Uh.