Exclusive: Raphael Saadiq, Lee Fields More Offer Music History Lesson With EJ’s Generations of Soul

Lee Fields, BJ the Chicago Kid and Raphael Saadiq

Lee Fields, BJ the Chicago Kid and Raphael Saadiq photographed in Chicago.

Piper Ferguson

BJ the Chicago Kid also stars in campaign tied to the brandy's 40th anniversary.

Paralleling its long-running heritage with R&B’s own storied legacy, E&J Brandy has cast musicians Raphael Saadiq, BJ the Chicago Kid and Lee Fields as the stars of its Generations of Soul campaign. Launching Wednesday (March 4) and running through 2015, the campaign marks the company’s 40th anniversary.

“The connection to authenticity and tradition was quite obviously the linking point,” explains E&J marketing director Anna Bell. “We wanted to combine forces with inspirational artists who come from different places and perspectives but possess the passion and excitement for their craft and respect for the past as we do.”

Go On the Road With Billboard

The Generations of Soul rollout begins with Wednesday’s premiere of the video teaser for “What Is Soul?” The video — being unveiled in full on Thursday with OkayPlayer — is the first episode of a 10-part online series in which the soulful trio chats about their influences, creative processes and experiences. The series, playing as well on E&J’s YouTube page, will also feature three live performances, including an unreleased Saadiq song.

Defining soul as “being of the spirit,” Fields says he hopes to change things in a good way through Generations of Soul. “I want to help bring a lot more awareness about what I, BJ and Raphael are doing musically.”

During an invite-only event on April 2 at Mack Sennett Studios in Los Angeles, 500 guests will be treated to live performances by Fields, BJ and Saadiq, among other surprises. Coming later in the year: three separate 7-inch vinyl releases comprised of select songs covered by Saadiq, BJ and Fields.

One of the songs that BJ covers is “Charlie Ray,” a track from Saadiq’s 2002 debut solo album Instant Vintage. “That song is so ill,” says BJ. “A lot of musicians love its churchy, bluesy melody. I just wanted to own it for five minutes. Giving back to people music that touches someone’s soul … you’re actually pushing the legacy of that.”