Tony! Toni! Toné!
About Tony! Toni! Toné!
Tony! Toni! Toné! can whip up a sonic mood and serve it like no other. As soon as the drum kicks in for “Feels Good,” the opener of their breakthrough second album, 1990’s The Revival, we’re treated to a deceptively complex swirl of smart instrumentation, layered vocals, and cutting-edge production. Much of the group’s early work can be classified as new jack swing—the hip-hop/R&B hybrid that dominated dance floors at the time—but the trio’s chops and taste always ensured they’d transcend trends. Originally comprising frontman Raphael Saadiq, his brother D’wayne Wiggins on vocals and guitar, and their cousin Timothy Christian Riley on drums and keys, Tony! Toni! Toné! formed in the late ‘80s in Oakland, California. After singing in high school choir and jamming together in their youth, their chemistry was set by the time of their inventive 1998 debut, Who?. Writing and producing much of their work, they’d adapt their sound in real time as R&B shifted from new jack’s high-energy to the tranquil feel of neo-soul. Often, Tony! Toni! Toné! would bridge both approaches in the same album, as on 1993’s Sons of Soul where the uptempo “If I Had No Loot” and the deeply grooving “(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow” comfortably share space. Up until their break-up in 1997, the group blew apart every box they were placed in musically (and Saadiq has furthered their experiments in rhythm and blues as a solo artist and producer). But the group’s most compelling songs—including 1993’s 9-minute romantic epic “Anniversary”—are intricately orchestrated offerings of love and adoration that immerse us in a feeling.