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Ray Ray
Artist: Raphael Saadiq
Format: CD
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''Ray Ray'', also known as ''Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray'', is the second studio album by American R&B and neo soul musician Raphael Saadiq, released September 27, 2004 on his Pookie Entertainment label. Production for the album was handled by Saadiq, Michael Angelo, Jake & The Phatman, and Kelvin Wooten. Titled after a childhood nickname of Saadiq's, ''Ray Ray'' contains a more funk-oriented sound than Saadiq's previous album, ''Instant Vintage'' (2002), while it features romantic and some message-oriented lyrical themes. The album's cover artwork is inspired by the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.

Prior to its release, Raphael Saadiq had stated that the album is "more aggressive, more radio-friendly. It's one of those good, Saturday-playing records". ''Ray Ray'' peaked at number 86 on the U.S. ''Billboard'' 200, at number 18 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, and at number 3 on the Top Independent Albums chart. Despite some mixed criticism towards its loose blaxploitation concept and Saadiq's songwriting, the album earned praise for its production quality and vintage style. ''Ray Ray'' received generally positive reviews from music critics, based on an aggregate score of 66/100 from Metacritic. - Wikipedia

"Where his friend D'Angelo is stone serious (or just stoned), former Tony! Toni! Tonontman Raphael Saadiq is puckish and eager for work. He penned the other guy's biggest mid '90s hit, ""Lady,"" and has since settled into the mostly faceless role of R&B studio jobber-as singer-producer, he's the one degree of separation between the Bee Gees and Devin the Dude. Lucy Pearl, Saadiq's brief collaboration with Dawn Robinson and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, yielded the 2000 single ""Dance Tonight,"" a getting-ready-to-go-out anthem that was equal parts Cam'ron and Edith Wharton (best Saadiq line: ""Make sure that you look good/ Make sure that I smell good""). His solo debut two years later incorporated the tuba, and a good live release followed. Was a non-sucky sophomore studio album too much to hope for?

Nope. Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray is a work of impulse craftsmanship so breezy that it drops the dumb blaxploitation theme almost instantly, leaving you to wonder if it was just an excuse to: a) reveal Saadiq's birth name as Charlie Ray Wiggins, or b) wax goofy. ""Rifle Love,"" a nominal reunion of both the Tonies and Lucy Pearl, rips the melody from ""Dance Tonight."" But who cares when it also repeatedly samples the cocking and shooting of a shotgun, to hilarious effect, with a sample of someone (maybe even the singer himself) saying, ""Damn this sounds good""? On ""Live Without You,"" the jaunty muted trumpet accompanying Saadiq's marriage proposal gives way to a coda full of funky strings and odes to honeymoon sex. If the man can have it all in one song, he will.

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