NEW YORK — You never know which of the multiple personalities will appear when Lucy Pearl speaks.
It could be Raphael, with his funk/soul sensibility. Or maybe Dawn, with her harmonizing R&B girl-group diva self. Or perhaps even Ali, he of the rich hip-hop legacy.
Sometimes they speak one at a time; other times, they can all be talking at once. Now if Lucy Pearl were just one person, this could be a problem. But since it is the name of a musical collective of three creative and respected music-industry veterans, it's kind of interesting, especially since the name came out of nowhere.
"We were coming up with a name and Raphael started saying 'Lucy Pearl,' " Dawn Robinson recalled during an interview at a Manhattan hotel. "The more we heard other people saying it, the more I started liking the name."
Lucy Pearl's name has been on the lips of many hip-hop and R&B fans lately. "Dance Tonight," the first single from the "Lucy Pearl" album, has been getting considerable radio and video play since its release on the "Love & Basketball" soundtrack. The album was released on the Pookie Records label on May 23.
Lucy Pearl was born in the summer of 1999. The collective started as an idea of Raphael Saadiq, formerly of Tony! Toni! Tone! The group, which was well-known for its soul-and-funk-influenced sound, split in 1998. Saadiq had been working on some solo projects, but wanted to try something new.
He started talking with Ali Shaheed Muhammad, musical producer for the groundbreaking A Tribe Called Quest, known for its brand of lyrically clever, musically innovative, often socially conscious hip-hop. Tribe had also recently disbanded, so Muhammad and Saadiq figured it was a good time to create some music together.
Robinson, who had left the female superstar quartet En Vogue in 1997, was about to sign a solo contract, but decided to join Muhammad and Saadiq instead.
"It's great because not only do I get to work with them and do creative things that I hadn't done before, but it also individually sets up other things for us as well. . . . I had been gone out of the light for four years; that's a long time for an artist to leave," she said.
When the three got into the studio, it was instant chemistry, they said. There were no rules about who would do what or what each person's role would be.
"We just came in the studio," Muhammad said. "People were just letting themselves go."
The album was recorded in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. It is a mix of musical styles and influences, thanks to the trio's varied musical interests. There is also a bit of listener input. The group held an Internet contest, asking people to do a remix of the track "LaLa" and offering to put the winner's version on the album.
Do they worry about comparisons with the work they did with their old groups?
"Every day you wake up is a new day," Muhammad said. "Just get up and make the music and have fun with it. . . . What we're doing is straight from the heart."