Raphael Saadiq: Learning From The Greats

May 14, 2011

If you passed Raphael Saadiq on the street, you might wonder whether you'd stepped back in time. He wears tightly fitted suits, skinny black ties and thick, black-framed glasses. He makes music that almost seems like it's from another era, so it's no surprise that he's increasingly seen as the standard-bearer of old-school American R&B.

Saadiq has been around a long time — since the 1980s, when he toured with Prince and sang in the R&B trio Tony! Toni! Toné! On his latest solo album, Stone Rollin', he not only sings, but also plays a lot of the instruments — Mellotron, keys, guitar, percussion and bass. Saadiq tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz that, in making new music with a vintage sound, he likes to think like an athlete.

"When you look at athletes, they have fundamentals. Kobe [Bryant] will go back and watch a Magic Johnson, or LeBron [James] will go back and watch a Michael Jordan," he says. "If you want to be like the greats, you learn from the greats."

As for the term "old school," Saadiq says he doesn't mind it, but that it doesn't hold much water, either.

"Isaac Hayes told me once, 'There's no such thing as old-school,' " Saadiq says. "Either you went to school or you didn't." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.