Raphael Saadiq

Ray Ray

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Ray Ray looks more like a concept album -- about a Blaxploitation hero -- than it sounds like one. It's another ambitious release from Raphael Saadiq, who has continued to be very active as a musician, producer, and songwriter for other artists. Though he has given plenty of his ideas to like-minded artists like Jill Scott, Kelis, Truth Hurts, Mos Def, Amp Fiddler, and Teedra Moses (who guests on two songs here), his creative well seems to be pretty much bottomless. Ray Ray occasionally loses focus, slipping into moments that are either undercooked or worthy of the cutting room, but it's enjoyable enough to keep his followers happy and will certainly act as a remedy for those who don't like the gold-bricked path being taken by mainstream RB. The album is a little funkier and a lot more energetic than 2002's Instant Vintage, yet just as full of Saadiq's stylish flourishes. The subject matter is as varied as you'd expect: for every song that's charmingly simple and full of lighthearted romantic sentiments, there's something message-oriented, such as "Grown Folks" (in which Saadiq tries on Curtis Mayfield's falsetto and songwriting style, proclaiming that the adults "need more help than the children do"). ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi