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Raphael Saadiq's album inspiration

The singer-producer talks about his new retro-soul CD

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Raphael Saadiq, the Grammy-winning artist and former lead singer of Tony! Toni! TonĂ©!, has spent 20 years writing and producing hits for the likes of Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and Joss Stone. Saadiq’s excellent new CD, The Way I See It, boasts churchy chord progressions and polished production, paying tribute to classic soul singers and fitting in nicely with the work of revivalists like Amy Winehouse. Here, Saadiq gives insight on some of his new songs’ inspirations.

”Keep Marchin”’
Driven by a slinky bass line and feel-good lyrics, this song is as motivational as Curtis Mayfield’s ”Move On Up.” Says Saadiq, ”Curtis is an inspiration for my life in music.”

”Sure Hope You Mean It”
A swinging track that reminds Saadiq of the Temptations, who early in their career braved insensitive all-white crowds before crossing over. ”If I play this song to an all-black crowd now, they’ll look at me like, ‘What the hell is he doing?”’

”Big Easy”
Saadiq wrote this after watching a man leave his mother by the Superdome in Spike Lee’s Katrina documentary, When the Levees Broke. ”Everything was sad, but that stood out. It just spoke to me.”

”Never Give You Up” feat. Stevie Wonder and CJ Hilton
Saadiq enlists Wonder on this sensual groove, a nod to Marvin Gaye. Just don’t call it a throwback: ”This is not the ’60s,” says Saadiq. ”It’s just in light of those people. Gotta lose that ‘retro’ word. It’s black music!”