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Raphael Saadiq says despite its dark subject matter, new album ‘Jimmy Lee’ isn’t a downer


Columbia RecordsRaphael Saadiq has released Jimmy Lee, his first new album in eight years, and this time around, the former Tony! Toni! Toné! member is using his music to share the pain of losing his older brother due to drug addiction. 

Despite the subject matter, Saadiq insists he’s looking to lift people up, rather than bring them down.

“I lost three brothers to some type of addiction or drug-related situations,” Saadiq tells ABC Radio. “But the record is not really, like, a downer. It’s sort of, like, uplifting people that might have ran into some type of drug addiction.”

Jimmy Lee is named after Saadiq’s brother, who died years ago of an overdose after contracting HIV. The singer thinks that by sharing his pain through his music, he may help others who’ve never come across songs on this difficult topic.

“It’s sort of done with the same care and the same love that I’ve always made music with,” Saadiq says, adding that it’s “kind of cool” to use his music offer “love and support” to “people who might have seen some of the same things but never been able to talk about, or it’s never been on a record.”

With Jimmy Lee, which features a guest spot from Kendrick Lamar, Saadiq examines all sides of addiction, from its impact on loved ones, to his own experience with drugs, to mass incarceration.

“It’s really great to bring to something to radio and records and visuals and putting this whole story behind it,” he declares.

By the way, in the eight years since his last record, 2011’s Stone Rollin’, Saadiq hasn’t been idle: He executive-produced Solange’s album A Seat at the Table, got an Oscar nod for co-writing the song “Mighty River,” from Mudbound, and produced John Legend‘s Christmas album.

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