Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Raphael Wiggins of Tony! Tony! Toné!

THEY'RE THE SOUL INHERITORS

"WE CALLED OUR ALBUM SONS OF SOUL because we consider ourselves to be the sons of groups like the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Earth, Wind and Fire," says Tony! Toni! Toné!'s singer-bassist Raphael Wiggins. He smiles, flashing a mouthful of braces. "If it wasn't for those people, there wouldn't be no Tony! Toni! Toné!, that's for sure."

Raphael, 27, his brother Dwayne, 32, who plays guitar, and their cousin, drummer Timothy Wiggins, 27, grew up in Oakland, close enough to Berkeley to pick up a post-Woodstock vibe, and sang together in their choir at Castlemount High School. "From day zero we set out to be a band," says Raphael of the trio, which takes its name from neighborhood slang for smooth dressing. "We do things differently not just to be different," he says, "but because that's the way we feel." Among the differences, Wiggins cites the group's no-grunge no-sneaker sense of fashion, as well as its eclectic cultural tastes: Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, A Tribe Called Quest, old Dick Cavett shows and Jim Morrison. Says Raphael: "We love that funky kind of thing."

Their respect for the past keeps Tony! Toni! Toné! close to their musical roots and resistant to flashy marketing. "Every record company wants to get a group and put 'em in a Benz with a car phone and a beeper, show them dressing in three different outfits, put them in a video shot on a beach with lots of swinging bikinis," says Raphael. "You won't ever see us on a beach. We're just down-to-earth, funky, like-to-play guys."

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