Stone Rollin'

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Stone Rollin'
Image of a group of young adults in retro clothing, with a focus on a blonde-haired girl blowing a bubble with her gum
Studio album by Raphael Saadiq
Released March 25, 2011 (2011-03-25)
Recorded 2009–10; Blakeslee Recording Company, Los Angeles
Genre Rhythm and blues,[1] rock, soul,[2] blues, funk[3]
Length 43:11
Label Columbia
Producer Raphael Saadiq
Raphael Saadiq chronology
The Way I See It
(2008)
Stone Rollin'
(2011)
Singles from Stone Rollin'
  1. "Radio"
    Released: December 21, 2010 (2010-12-21)
  2. "Good Man"
    Released: February 15, 2011 (2011-02-15)
  3. "Stone Rollin'"
    Released: March 22, 2011 (2011-03-22)
  4. "Movin' Down the Line"
    Released: October 2011

Stone Rollin' is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Raphael Saadiq, released on March 25, 2011, by Columbia Records. Recording sessions for the album took place at Blakeslee Recording Company in Los Angeles during 2009 to 2010. Inspired by the loud, raw sound of his live performances, Saadiq worked with recording engineer and long-time collaborator Chuck Brungardt to produce a grittier, more aggressive sound for the album.

Primarily performed by Saadiq, Stone Rollin' expands on the traditional soul music style of his previous 2008 album, The Way I See It, with an homage to rhythm and blues, incorporating styles such as funk, blues, and rock music. Music writers have noted the album for its stylistic breadth, groove-based compositions, contemporary detail, varied subject matter, and incorporation of the Mellotron keyboard.

Initially released in Europe, the album charted in several other countries before reaching number 14 on the US Billboard 200. It was Saadiq's highest-charting release there and produced four singles, including the US R&B hit "Good Man". Stone Rollin' received general acclaim from music critics, who praised its traditional influences, musical eclecticism, and Saadiq's songwriting. Saadiq promoted the album with a concert tour spanning from March to August 2011.

Background[edit]

In 2008, Saadiq released his third album The Way I See It,[4] which featured 1960s Motown Sound-inspired songs with traditional soul music influences.[5] The album was also an exemplary release of the "classic soul revival" during its peak at the time,[6][7] a music scene marked by similarly retro-minded work from mainstream artists such as Amy Winehouse and Adele, independent acts such as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Mayer Hawthorne, and older artists making comebacks such as Al Green and Bettye LaVette.[8][9] In promoting the album, Saadiq broadened his audience demographic and expanded as a touring artist,[5] playing various music festivals throughout Europe and the United States.[10] Along with the musical aesthetic of the album, Saadiq himself adopted a vintage soul image, donning old-fashioned attire and performing traditional R&B dance moves at shows.[5][6] His touring also inspired his approach for Stone Rollin',[10] as he considered the louder, raw sound and general feeling of performing live.[11]

Saadiq has said of his creative intentions with the follow-up, "I’ve never shut my ears to anything, really. It’s not like I’m always looking for things, either, but I can’t close my ears to any music. Any guitar, any drums, any rhythm section— I’ve always been open to those things, trying to understand what makes them work in a song".[5] He was influenced by early rock and roll artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley,[12] and has cited blues musician Howlin' Wolf as an influence on the album's sound, which he described as "bluesy" and "harder" than that of his previous album,[13] with more aggressive tempos.[14] In an interview for BULLETT Magazine, Saadiq explained his idea of the album's title, stating "Stone Rollin' basically symbolizes the action of throwing dice and taking chances with life. That's what I've done my whole career—taking chances with different styles of music and making choices that other people would be afraid to take. Stone Rollin' means I'm going all the way out there this time".[15]

Recording[edit]

Saadiq played various instruments and recorded his vocals with a dynamic microphone.

Saadiq recorded Stone Rollin' at Blakeslee Recording Company, his recording studio complex in Los Angeles, California.[10] He spent approximately one year working on the album, including writing its music and lyrics.[15] He worked on the album's production with recording engineer and long-time collaborator Chuck Brungardt. The two shared an interest in collecting vintage musical gear and studying historic recording techniques, which they had applied in recording The Way I See It.[5] However, for Stone Rollin', they sought to eschew its predecessor's Motown aesthetic for a more eclectic style, in keeping with Saadiq's other musical projects.[5]

According to Brungardt, the recording of the project's earlier songs, "Heart Attack", was critical in their decision for the album.[5] The song was recorded during Saadiq's break from touring for The Way I See It and had originally featured that album's sound, with which they were not satisfied. When they revisited the song, Saadiq reconstructed the original recording after stripping track's individually recorded instrument parts, with the exception of the vocals and some of its drums.[5] In an interview for EQ Magazine, Brungardt said of their approach, "We wanted to evolve the songs, and I wanted to evolve the engineering, as well. On The Way I See It, everything was pretty much tube pre's and tube compressors. On this one, I wanted to play around with some of the more solid-state gear".[5]

Some of the album's songs were recorded by Saadiq with his live band, which included drummer Lemar Carter, bassist Calvin Turner, and guitarist Rob Bacon.[5] Bacon, who had played with Saadiq since 2002, said of their grittier approach to guitar, "I have relative pitch, as opposed to perfect pitch, so there'd be times when I'd spend 15 or 20 minutes tuning my instrument. Then he'd come in and pick up his guitar and just start playing it however it was left the day before. On one of the tracks I had to play over all this stuff that was out of tune. Raphael was like, 'That's what makes it funky!'".[16] Musical guests such as vocalist Yukimi Nagano, keyboardist Larry Dunn, bass player Larry Graham,[13] keyboardist Amp Fiddler,[5] and pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph also contributed to the album's recording sessions,[10] with Saadiq selecting their parts for certain tracks.[17] The song "Go to Hell" was conceived from one of Amp Fiddler's Mellotron ideas.[5] Saadiq recorded a duet with Larry Graham called "The Perfect Storm", included as a hidden track on the album.[13] He later said of recording with Graham, "I played bass, but I put my bass down [laughs]. The first day I tried to play bass for him, I couldn't even play. I froze three times. He's my all-time idol!".[13]

Production[edit]

For the majority of the recordings, Saadiq played most of the instruments, including bass, keyboard, guitar, Mellotron, percussion, and drums,[10] and he also layered each recorded instrumental part afterwards. Brungardt used a Neumann U 47 microphone to record each of Saadiq's instrument part.[5] Saadiq recorded his vocals on a dynamic microphone alone in the recording studio's control room, an approach encouraged to him earlier in his career by record producer and audio engineer Gerry Brown. According to Brungardt, "[Saadiq's] voice benefits from a dynamic mic because it tends to give him more bottom and presence. Plus dynamic mics can sound a little older when pushed".[5]

With the songs' guitar parts, Brungardt wanted to create additional distortion in order to produce a grittier, guitar sound for the songs, a stylistic preference Saadiq and him had acquired from listening to a great deal of indie rock at the time. He applied several techniques to achieve this sound, including increasing the gain on Saadiq's Fender Twin guitar amplifier, using a software plug-in for the recordings in post-production, and re-amping Saadiq's guitar parts.[5] In his interview for EQ Magazine, Brungardt discussed using a Massey TapeHead, one of his preferred plug-ins, in the recording process, stating "I’ll use that on a lot of things to get a little more grit. It thickens stuff up nicely if you record something that’s a little too bright. I usually go a lot for darker tones when recording and mixing".[5]

For several songs, Saadiq incorporated lush orchestration and strings as predominant elements.[5] He worked on the orchestral recording with arranger Paul Riser and Gerry Brown at Ocean Way Recording's Studio B in Los Angeles, while the songs' horn parts were mostly recorded at the Blakeslee studio.[5] He later explained his approach for each song's orchestration, "Instead of just having a string section off in the background. I wanted on certain songs for the strings to be more expressive, so I talked to Paul Riser about the titles and what I was going for in the songs. I’d say, 'For this word, I want it to be orchestrated this way. When I listen to the song 'Go to Hell', I want to hear the winds in the valley rushing into me'".[5]

Brown also worked with Saadiq on the album's tracking at Blakeslee.[5] The album was mixed using Pro Tools in Blakeslee Recording Company's Studio A, with the SSL 4000 used mostly for monitoring, and using the SSL 9000 in the "C" room.[5] During mixing, Brungardt used equalization filters such as a McDSP FilterBank plug-in and Waves Renaissance EQ to handle excessive high end in spots, and he utilized other equipment for additional sound effects, including a Line 6 Echo Farm, a Roland Space Echo, and an Echoplex clone.[5]

Composition[edit]

The album expands on the Motown-inspired material of Saadiq's previous album and includes various other R&B styles.[5][18] Along with mid-tempo soul songs, Stone Rollin' features styles such as early R&B-rooted rock and roll, rock-inspiring funk,[19] Chess Records-blues,[20] and the more expansive orchestral sound of post-Detroit Motown and 1970s Philadelphia soul.[5][21][22] Disc jockey Chris Douridas described Saadiq's sound as "a hybrid form that's rooted in these familiar elements from classic soul but recontextualized with a modern sound".[16] Nick Butler of Sputnikmusic called the album's songs "belters" and "guitar-heavy", and wrote of its musical influences, "While Prince informs the sound of this more than anybody, it's a very early-'70s sounding album on the whole [...] but there are influences that go back even further than that - Ray Charles and Little Richard in particular inform some of this record's more energetic moments."[2] Los Angeles Times journalist Mikael Wood said of the album's sound and production, "Where Saadiq's previous efforts luxuriated in the layering and the fine-tuning made possible by modern recording gear, Stone Rollin'  presents a rawer, rowdier soul-rock sound modeled after his energetic stage show".[16]

Music writer Robert Christgau said that Saadiq's compositions are characterized by "groove rather than song".[23] Andy Kellman of Allmusic wrote that the songs are "tied together by the Mellotron, a vintage keyboard — commonly associated with psychedelic and progressive rock recordings, but not foreign to soul — that evokes diseased flutes and wheezing strings", adding that "Saadiq tends to use the instrument for shading".[24] Music journalist Jim DeRogatis observed "a little less Motown gloss" than The Way I See It and "a little more rock grit in Saadiq’s grooves, heavy on the Sly Stone (witness the opening 'Heart Attack'), late '50s/early '60s Isley Brothers (the joyful 'Radio'), and Ray Charles ('Day Dreams'), to say nothing of the skillful use of Mellotron orchestrations as a connecting thread throughout the disc, sort of like the Moody Blues suddenly finding the funk ('The Answer')."[25] Steve Horowitz of PopMatters found the songs' subject matter to be assorted and said that Saadiq "personalizes each song so they seem connected as just the many aspects of one man’s existence and experience".[26]

Songs[edit]

The song heavily incorporates the Mellotron keyboard,[24] and contains spiritual themes of hardship, redemption, and love.[27]

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The opening track, "Heart Attack", features elements of rock and roll and soul music, incorporating driving bass, reverberating rhythm guitar,[24] a four-on-the-floor drum beat,[28] high-pitched vocals, and tambourine-accented groove.[18] The song is an homage to one of Saadiq's musical idols, Sly Stone,[5] and was inspired by Sly and the Family Stone songs "Dance to the Music" and "M'Lady".[29] Its burbling background vocals are adapted from the former song.[28] Saadiq said of his creative intentions with the song, "I wanted the album to start out with that sense of urgency, that global soul and rock & roll feel".[29] Music journalist Andy Gill writes that it "explosively replicates the high-energy impact of Sly & The Family Stone".[18] Sputnikmusic's Nick Butler calls the song "a textbook study in blending rock and soul without diluting the power of either."[2]

The gospel-styled "Go to Hell" contains spiritual overtones and harmonious orchestration and choir vocals.[12][29][30] Its line "I’m going to be a warrior of everything I say" is an allusion to Saadiq's adopted surname,[17] which means "man of his word" in Arabic.[31] The Chuck Berry-inspired "Radio" features rockabilly guitar riffs and twelve-bar blues.[6][28][29] Its lyrics present a disapproving woman as the personification of mainstream radio: "I met this girl named Radio / said her signal was low / she wasn't getting my sound".[6] According to Saadiq, the line "I tried to move away / she found me the very next day" alludes to his affinity for his musical roots and those of rock and roll.[17] "Over You" is a pleading ballad that incorporates Wall of Sound-styled strings, crashing, big-beat drums played in double-time,[32][33] and psychedlic influences.[33][34][35] The album's title track is an ode to curvaceous, full-figured women,[36] with lusty lyrics and declamatory vocals.[32][37] It features bluesy harmonica, funky guitar riffs,[38] and a sound described by Saadiq as "dirty, more of like a Chicago Blues, Rolling Stones dirty record [...] the bluesiest joint" on the album.[39]

"Day Dreams" is about spending above one's means to satisfy a woman and was inspired by Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.[5][40] The song incorporates rockabilly-shuffle elements, a shuffling Bo Diddley-like backbeat,[1] chicken scratch-styled guitar by Saadiq, and steel guitar slide work by Robert Randolph.[41][42] "Movin' Down the Line", an ode to a love unrequited,[43] features mellow horns, jangling guitar, heavy bass lines, and a swelling string and piano conclusion.[40] Music writer Lloyd Bradley writes that the song exemplifies the album's combination of traditional style and contemporary detail, stating "It has every bit of digital snap needed to succeed among today’s sounds; but Saadiq’s masterful use of a big brass section lurking w-a-a-ay into the background picks the tune up and puts it down in a completely different era. The song turns out both laidback and urgent at the same time, and is utterly irrepressible for it".[19] Containing a psychedelic funk sound,[12] "Just Don't" has its narrator expressing his dejection as he realizes his woman has moved on.[40] The song features guest vocals by Yukimi Nagano and an extended Moog solo by Larry Dunn.[29]

The song features a classic soul style, Brill Building-like sonics, and a slow-burning narrative about betrayal by Saadiq.[44]

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"Good Man" contains plaintive lyrics and a hook co-written and sung by vocalist Taura Stinson.[29][45] Her lines for the hook, including "I'm a good man / Food on the table / Working two jobs / Ready, willing, and able", contrast Saadiq's anguished narration of a man mourning his woman's betrayal.[40][46][47] Music writer Andy Kellman cites it as "the most compelling song on the album", describing it as "a mini-epic of trouble-man soul, somewhere along the lines of Ohio Players' 'Our Love Has Died' and a missing cut off David Porter's Victim of the Joke? [...] its elegant misery is instantly striking, enhanced by Taura Stinson's pouty guest vocal".[24] The album's closing track, "The Answer", features a wistful, jazz-funk sound,[19] with marching snare drums and muffled horns,[48] and a socio-political tone.[49] Its lyrics express a call for collective and individual responsibility.[50] Saadiq said of the song's inspiration, "I always have a song similar to that on my albums. I was just thinking about growing up in Oakland and all the older people and mentors who helped me out at the time. So I just wanted to throw it back and say thank you, and tell all the kids out there to listen to the people trying to guide them".[15]

Singles[edit]

Three singles were released from the album.[4] Lead single "Radio" was released on December 21, 2010, as a digital download.[51] Its music video premiered on January 6 and features imagery reflecting both retro and modern styles.[52] The second single "Good Man" was released on February 15.[53] It reached number 52 and spent 16 weeks on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[54] It also reached number 20 on the Billboard Adult R&B.[4] Premiered on February 8, its music video was filmed by Isaiah Seret and features fashion model Yaya DaCosta and actor Chad Coleman.[55] Saadiq said of the video's storyline, "'Good Man' tells the story I've seen many times in my own life. Everything around that man can be bad, his occupation, lifestyle, friends, but underneath all of it, he is...a good man".[55]

The third single,[56] its title track, was released on March 22.[57] It peaked at number 38 on the US Triple-A chart.[58] Its music video was directed by Dori Oskowitz and premiered on Saadiq's Vevo channel on March 28.[39][59] Set in an all-female social club, the video features Saadiq and his band in a low-key, impromptu performance of the song, as a sexually attractive woman enters the club.[39] Saadiq performed "Stone Rollin'" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on March 21,[60] and on Conan on May 16.[61] A video for "Day Dreams", starring actor Danny Pudi, was directed by Bret McKenzie and premiered by Hulu on August 11.[62] Its fourth single "Movin' Down the Line" reached number 71 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, on which it charted for 15 weeks.[54]

Commercial performance[edit]

Stone Rollin' was released by Columbia Records and distributed by Sony Music Entertainment.[10][63] Originally scheduled for March 22, 2011,[64] it was released on March 25 in continental European countries such as the Netherlands,[65] France,[66] Norway,[67] Switzerland,[68] Austria,[69] Belgium,[70] and Sweden.[71] The album was subsequently released in the United Kingdom on April 4,[72] in Germany on April 22,[73] in the United States on May 10,[74] and in Australia on May 20.[75]

In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number 84 on the UK Albums Chart in the week ending April 16, 2011.[76] It also entered at number eight on the R&B Albums Chart in the UK,[77] on which it ultimately charted for five weeks.[78] In its second week, the album dropped to number 89 on the UK Albums Chart.[79] It fell off the chart in its third week.[80] The album debuted at number 58 in Switzerland,[81] number 73 in the Netherlands,[82] number 26 in France,[83] number 82 in Canada,[84] and number eight in Norway.[85] In its second week, Stone Rollin' moved up to number seven,[86] its peak position on Norway's VG-lista chart.[67] The album charted for five weeks in the Netherlands,[65] nine weeks in France,[66] four weeks in Norway,[67] and seven weeks in Switzerland.[68]

Upon its release in the United States, the album debuted at number 14 on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week domestic sales of 21,000 copies.[87] It is Saadiq's highest-charting album on the Billboard 200.[88] The album also entered at number four on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and at number 13 on its Top Digital Albums chart.[89][90] It sold 10,500 copies in its second week of release. As of May 2011, Stone Rollin' has sold 32,100 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[91] It ultimately spent eight weeks on the Billboard 200 and nine weeks on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[88][92]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[24]
The A.V. Club A–[33]
Robert Christgau A–[23]
The Independent 4/5 stars[18]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[93]
Mojo 4/5 stars[94]
PopMatters 9/10[26]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[95]
Slant Magazine 2.5/5 stars[96]
Spin 7/10[1]

Stone Rollin' received universal acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 86, based on 20 reviews.[97] Allmusic editor Andy Kellman commented that "the album does not merely transcend period-piece status. It’s the high point of Saadiq’s career, his exceptional output with Tony! Toni! Toné! included".[24] Andy Gill of The Independent complimented its "Motown mood" and "equally stylish and well-effected impressions of Curtis Mayfield, Little Walter and Ray Charles".[18] Kevin Ritchie of Now commended "the electrifying fervour and meticulous musicianship typical of his stage show".[98] Rolling Stone writer Jon Dolan noted Saadiq's "tight songwriting" and compared the album to Jimi Hendrix's 1968 album Electric Ladyland, calling Stone Rollin' "an inspired free-for-all, moving backward and forward from his beloved mid-Sixties — from girl-crazy Chuck Berry to politicized Stevie".[95]

MSN Music's Robert Christgau felt that, although the album lacks the hooks of The Way I See It, Saadiq "plays with himself to beat the band" like Prince and "makes these 10 tracks bump and pulse. And then you notice even the less pneumatic ones connecting as songs."[23] Steve Horowitz of PopMatters wrote that the album "shows off Saadiq’s genius as a singer, writer, instrumentalist, and producer of modern rhythm and blues that pays homage to its traditions", adding that it does not have "a false step or even a dull note".[26] Kenny Herzog of The A.V. Club dubbed it Saadiq's "career-finest" and wrote in conclusion, "The end result is a warm, sometimes reckless, but always deeply moving and wildly creative effort that is absolutely dizzying in the best, most indelible sense".[33]

Mosi Reeves of Spin wrote that the music's "rhythm-and-blues revival" is "almost too expertly calibrated", but "can't obscure Saadiq's songwriting talents", and called him "a virtuoso stylist whose finest flourishes lie in the details".[1] Los Angeles Times writer Jeff Weiss commented that "dismissing it as overly familiar obscures the point" and praised Saadiq as "a classicist of the best kind — one who not only carries on tradition but expands it".[93] In a mixed review, Slant Magazine's Matthew Cole found the album "too reverent in its retro to leave a lasting impression of its own", writing that it is "not devoid of solid tunes, but even the highlights are complacent genre exercises".[96]

Accolades[edit]

Entertainment Weekly ranked Stone Rollin' number 18 on its year-end list of best albums.[99] Uncut ranked the album number 41 on its list of Top 50 Albums of 2011.[100] Rolling Stone ranked it number 44 on its year-end list and commented, "This retro-soul master segues from 1960s Motown to Fifties R&B to Seventies psychedelic soul. But Saadiq isn't just a human highlight reel. He's a riveting singer and a clever songwriter".[101] Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot ranked the album number seven in his year-end list and dubbed it Saadiq's "finest achievement", writing that "He’s always written songs steeped in soul and R&B, but now he gives them a progressive edge with roaming bass lines and haunted keyboard textures. He’s no longer a retro stylist – he’s writing new classics."[102] James Reed of The Boston Globe named it the third-best album of 2011 and stated, "Saadiq looked beyond Motown and Stax to make a modern soul classic that was not afraid to rock, roll, and sometimes even lull."[103]

The song "Good Man" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance, presented at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012.[104]

Tour[edit]

Saadiq performing at Eurockéennes de Belfort, 2011

Saadiq promoted Stone Rollin' with a North American spring tour, performing a series of concerts during March to June 2011. It began on March 15 at the House of Blues in Dallas and concluded on June 8 at Stubb's in Austin, Texas.[105][106] Some concert dates featured electronic music duo Quadron as an opening act.[105] The tour included performances at music festivals such as South by Southwest and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival,[106] for which Saadiq played songs from The Way I See It and Stone Rollin', as well as unreleased material.[107]

In reproducing the album's recorded music onstage, he performed with his eight-piece band,[14] which included bass player Calvin Turner, drummers Lemar Carter and Charles Jones, guitarists Rob Bacon and Josh Smith, and backing singers Erika Jerry and BJ Kemp.[108] In contrast to his touring for The Way I See It, Saadiq did not include a horn section for certain shows and played on guitar for a more rock-oriented sound.[28] While travelling between concert dates, Saadiq and his bandmates watched music documentaries for inspiration, including a documentary on Bob Marley & The Wailers and the 1973 film Wattstax.[107] He expanded his touring in promotion of the album into August 2011, with concerts alternating between North American headlining dates and European music festivals.[20]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks were produced by Raphael Saadiq, with co-production by Chuck Brungardt.[109]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Heart Attack"   Raphael Saadiq 3:03
2. "Go to Hell"   Saadiq, Taura Stinson 4:20
3. "Radio"   Saadiq 3:22
4. "Over You"   Saadiq 2:31
5. "Stone Rollin' "   Saadiq 3:37
6. "Day Dreams"   Saadiq 3:20
7. "Movin' Down the Line"   Saadiq 4:25
8. "Just Don't" (featuring Yukimi Nagano) Saadiq, Stinson 5:17
9. "Good Man"   Saadiq, Stinson 3:46
10. "The Answer"   Saadiq 9:30

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Stone Rollin' adapted from liner notes.[109]

Musicians[edit]

Production[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2011) Peak
position
Canadian Albums Chart[84] 82
Dutch Albums Chart[65] 38
French Albums Chart[66] 22
Japanese Albums Chart[111] 175
Norwegian Albums Chart[67] 7
Swiss Albums Chart[68] 56
UK Albums Chart[76] 84
UK R&B Albums[77] 8
US Billboard 200[88] 14
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[92] 3

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Butler, Nick (November 20, 2011). "Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin' (staff review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved November 20, 2012. 
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