In the nine years since his last album, Raphael Saadiq has not come out of the commission at all. Former Tony! Toni! Tone! members have collaborated with artists in various genres (Solange’s “Cranes In The Sky,” Apple of My Eye “Rick Ross), ensuring signs of innovation continue to sculpt the future of music. He has been a staple in R&B and Souls for decades, and in his new project, Jimmy Lee, he proved that he hasn’t finished evolving.
Jimmy Lee is a dark exploration of addictions, based on Saadiq’s experience of losing his brother to a heroin overdose in the 90s. The story and insight of this album prove that the pieces missing from these cracks have bubbled in Saadiq’s stomach for years, reaching the point where they flow again as something fully formed – something beautiful, but still painful and disturbing.
Saadiq experimented more than ever to achieve hoarseness and panic that captured the fear of suffering from addiction firsthand and watched loved ones pass through it. But these darker moments are offset by the frivolity of songs such as the main song, “Something Keeps Calling”, and the comforting gospel of Pastor E. Baker in “Belong to God”. This album drags you through trying to reach a point that is still burdensome, but endurable and awesome. It concludes with a surprise guest feature from Kendrick Lamar, still forcing us to ponder the heavy questions in the choir: “How can I change the world but not change myself?”