Raphael Saadiq Kicks Off Top 20 Live With Style (And Funk)

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We’ve had such success with You Oughta Know artists coming to VH1 to play great You Oughta Know Live sets?like Two Door Cinema Club‘s semi-acoustic take on four songs, including “What You Know”?that we knew we had to get more established Top 20 Countdown favorites into our offices, too. And who better to inaugurate our new series than the multitalented Raphael Saadiq?

Even short a keyboardist, a guitarist, and one of his vocalists, Saadiq proved a crack bandleader?and not just thanks to his history with Tony! Toni! Ton?! and as a member of Prince‘s touring band. Vocal sideman B.J. Kemp and the other players onstage weren’t merely hired hands but sharp musicians with whom Saadiq has a history, and whose input he sought during recording. It’s easy to forget, especially when the new jack swing epicenter was in the northeast, that Saadiq is Oakland born-and-raised, but the guitarist came up under the bay city’s twin suns: Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power.

That’s why his unique brand of blues doesn’t feel like a history lesson. On “Day Dreams,” guitarist Rob Bacon (whom Saadiq recruited after hearing his effortless replications of sampled riffs for DJ Quik‘s Bay Area hip hop) and bassist Calvin Turner (who’s also got plenty of production and arrangement in his long list of credits, and who also came up on Tower of Power) make the blues form pop with the lightest of touches. (Lemar Carter, drumming on a wooden box, didn’t really have the opportunity to show off his chops, but you can see him get funky on YouTube.)

If that weren’t enough, Saadiq gave entertaining Storytellers-style introductions for each song. Check out the whole set, including Marvin Gaye cover “Pride & Joy,” exclusively on VH1.com.