Tony Toni Tone"s lead singer, Raphael Wiggins, has an alto/ falsetto voice that sometimes sounds exactly like Babyface's. The 3T's current single, "If I Had No Loot," sounds similar to its No. 1 R&B hit from three years ago, "The Blues." But Wiggins, his guitar- playing brother D'wayne and their drumming cousin Timothy Christian Riley are not simply recycling their sound. Producing themselves for the first time, 3T combines its own brand of hip-hop funk with an adulation for classic soul music, creating in "Sons of Soul" (Mercury/ Wing) an album that is nostalgic, hip and atmospheric through its colorful textures. Thanks to horn and reed sections, string arrangers and a Trinidadian dancehall rapper, it manages to pay homage to the past while sounding very much up to date.
As its title suggests, the album's 15 songs reflect the dominant influence of soul music ancestors as varied as the [Michael Jackson] 5, Sly & the Family Stone, Isaac Hayes, the Temptations and Miracles, as well as the sounds of Motown and Stax. The group's respect for the past shows itself in another way as well: there's no innuendo or explicitness on this album other than on "My Ex-Girlfriend," and even there it's limited to a startlingly funny chorus in which 3T sings, "I couldn't believe it/ They tried to tell me my ex-girlfriend is a ho!" Using a portion of the Sly & the Family Stone's "My Lady" as the bridge, 3T twists hip-hop convention on this song.
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