Why Raphael Saadiq Avoided Making “Kid Music” For ‘Marvel’s Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur’


Raphael Saadiq at the premiere of Marvel’s “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” held at the Walt Disney Studios Lot on February 4, 2023 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images)

Raphael Saadiq has effortlessly soundtracked the lives of countless Gen Xers, Millennials, and Zoomers through his work with soul R&B outfits like Tony! Toni! Toné! or Lucy Pearl, as a solo artist and collaborator with greats like D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige, or even as a songwriter with Beyoncé or producer for Solange. Now, scoring and soundtracking the hit Disney+ animated series, Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, he’s opening up his influence to the youngest music enthusiasts.

“It’s always great to be rediscovered by many people,” the singer, producer, and instrumentalist tells ESSENCE. “My career has been like that. It has a slow burn and not a fast burn, which I really, really enjoy.”

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur tells the story of 13-year-old supergenius Lunella, who accidentally opens a portal and brings a 10-ton T-Rex back from the Jurassic era to the present day. With help from her friends, she becomes a superhero, secretly saving the day alongside her pet dinosaur while living in New York’s Lower East Side.

“I always loved animation growing up as a kid – most kids do,” Saadiq said of his affinity for the source material. “Once I saw it I said, ‘let’s give it a go’.”

Why Raphael Saadiq Didn’t Make “Kid Music” For ‘Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur’

Saadiq, who scores and executive produces the music for the show, says drawing inspiration for the sound of this superhero story was a no-brainer once he thought back to the New York City of his younger days.

“I love that it features some places I knew in New York,” Saadiq says. “Steve Loter, the producer who introduced me to the show, was a graffiti artist growing up. So we were always talking about how New York used to be painted with so much color before gentrification happened and things started turning gray.”

Seeking to capture that feeling, and to speak to the culture of the young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn at the center of the story, Saadiq aimed to capture the electric feeling of the city’s cultural melting pot. The soundtrack’s influences go from Jamaican to Hip-Hop, Funk to R&B, Salsa and so much more – the sounds that would naturally soundtrack the life of a 13-year-old coming of age in the famed borough.

But even as he approached the soundtrack of Lunella’s adventures, Saadiq says he purposely wasn’t seeking to make “kid’s music” – despite the recent popularity of kiddie song culture.

Why Raphael Saadiq Didn’t Make “Kid Music” For ‘Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur’
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 28: Raphael Saadiq attends the World Premiere of Amazon Prime Video’s “Candy Cane Lane” at Regency Village Theatre on November 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

“I’m also giving back to a household, not just kids. The music is not really all directed at kids,” he says. “So kids get a chance to listen to music created just for the sake of creating music. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t play a lot of kid music for me. I grew up listening to Al Green.”

“Even watching Bugs Bunny though, you were listening to full orchestras,” he explains. “You don’t know it as a kid, but you’re listening to symphonies the whole time. Scoring was a lot different than it is now.”

“So I’m just sort of giving back to communities and families what was given to me. I think [the new generation] deserves the chance to hear all the colors and all the different instrumentations and woodwinds and flutes and all the God-given sounds that they can take in because there are so many different sounds out here that don’t heal people.”

On top of helping heal the children through his work with Disney, Saadiq is also helping heal the community’s relationship with country music through his other recent venture – Beyoncé’s boundary-breaking Cowboy Carter country album. Saadiq is a songwriter on lead singles “16 Carriages” and “Texas Hold ‘Em,” helping usher in an exciting new era for Black artists in Country.

Why Raphael Saadiq Didn’t Make “Kid Music” For ‘Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur’
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Raphael Saadiq, Pilar Flynn, Laurence Fishburne, Fred Tatasciore, Diamond White, Libe Barer, Gary Anthony Williams, Steve Loter and Rodney Clouden attend the Red Carpet Premiere Event for Disney Branded Television’s and Marvel’s “Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur” at Walt Disney Studios on February 04, 2023 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Steven Simione/Getty Images)

“I love to work with people who really know what they want to do and how I could be of some assistance to them,” he said of the process of crafting the songs. “And it’s always good to work with somebody who’s trying to reach new things because they’ve been so great at everything they do. Beyoncé has a work ethic that’s pretty out of this world. And I’m the same way too. I like to work, I love all kinds of music; Country, Jazz, R&B, Classical, everything. So my process is just, ‘let’s go.’ That’s really it. I’m always ready to go.”

As for his own chameleonic ability to genre-hop and create across industries, Saadiq says the secret is no secret at all. It boils down to honing talent and continuing to work.

“I say it’s about being good. Everybody wants to be hot all the time, but it’s really about just staying consistent, being good, and giving people something to do.”


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