Despite his neo-soul aesthetic, Buddy Holly glasses and on-stage jam with Mick Jagger at the 2010 Grammy's, Raphael Saadiq is not a relic of the past. Sure, The Way I See It — the Grammy-winning album that landed him onstage with Jagger — was heavy with Motown rhythms and topped with a smidge of Marvin Gaye roleplay, but Saadiq has always been more of an originator, rather than an imitator, in sound. (To wit: His other Grammy win was for penning D'Angelo's "Untitled.") In Stone Rollin', his follow-up to 2008's The Way I See It, Saadiq once again establishes his relevance as a soulful, if modest, balladeer with a lyrical and instrumental edge that's far too absent in the work of his contemporaries.
On the contemporary R&B continuum, Stone Rollin' fits somewhere in between The Lady Killer and Love Letter, but unlike Cee Lo's electro-lined throwbacks and Kells's sexual explorations, Stone Rollin' boasts hand-crafted beats and lyrics informed by pain instead of fantasy. The string-propelled standout "Good Man" may boast a silky melody, but it's no valentine; battered drums beat beneath a stinging narrative of a blue-collar man who suffers the ambiguously-motivated spite of his lover. The song ends with the "good man" in a cop car and his former lover in the car of another — complexity, both lyrically and sonically, that trumps most other contemporary R&B jams. Refrains like "fuck you" or "we made love in a taxi cab" may bode well on the charts or streets, but Saadiq's chronicle of lost love will be relatable for years to come.