Raphael Saadiq (Courtesy photo)
Raphael Saadiq (Courtesy photo)

Neo-soul singer Raphael Saadiq, former member of the popular ’90s group Tony! Toni! Toné! and accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right, filled the 9:30 Club in northwest D.C. Saturday with funk, R&B and love while touring in support of his latest album.

Saadiq’s fifth solo offering, “Jimmy Lee,” a 13-track set released in August, memorializes his late older brother, Jimmy Lee Baker, who died during the 1990s from a heroin overdose while simultaneously battling HIV.

“I wonder how it would have been with him still here,” said Saadiq as he gave brief context to childhood experiences that inspired his brother as a youth raised in Oakland, California, in the 1970s.

The crowd screamed out tracks they wanted to hear next, as Saadiq voyaged through a healthy catalogue of favored songs, old and new, from various projects.

The veteran musician and his accompanying band played hits such as “Dance Tonight” (Lucy Pearl), “Anniversary” (Tony! Toni! Toné!), “You Should Be Here” (w/ D’Angelo) and many more, before leading into newer tracks like “The World Is Drunk” and “Something Keeps Calling” from his new album.

Saadiq shared with the audience that he is often told by others how underrated he has been in the music industry and that he does not receive enough respect for his talent and creativity. He has been the genius pen behind numerous and timeless hit records, not only for himself but for other leading artists, including Total’s “Kissin’ You,” Solange’s Grammy-winning “Cranes in the Sky” and D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” another Grammy winner.

“I worked with some really talented musicians and friends who kind of helped me become who I am, and I’ve kind of put my 5% in their careers, too,” he said. “Sometimes when I ride in my car around 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m listening to the Stevie Wonder station, they play some songs and I’m like, ‘OK, yeah, that’s me, that’s me, that’s me … damn, that’s me too!’”

Saadiq tastefully ended the night with one of the top audience-requested tracks, “Still Ray” from 2002’s “Instant Vintage,” alongside the D.C.-native tuba player from the music video.

As the 26-city tour rolls on, Saadiq is scheduled to return to what he still lovingly calls “Chocolate City” in May.

As for Saturday’s show, his performance and the crowd turnout was proof that Saadiq, as he humbly said to the crowd, “did all right for an Oakland city boy.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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