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smooth operators

Missy Elliott, Rakim, Talib Kweli, and More Talk to Vulture About the Greatness of Sade

When Sade returned last month with the predictably excellent single "Soldier of Love," it was a big deal over at Vulture HQ. But we know our excitement was nothing compared to the elation felt by the nation's rappers, who adore Sade: She's been shouted out by everyone from Mos Def ("listening to Sade, 'Sweetest Taboo'") and Talib Kweli ("you must know karate / or think your soul is bulletproof like Sade") to Drake (he's "really trying to work with Sade" on his debut) and Raekwon (check him out serenading her here). With Sade's first album in ten years, Soldier of Love, out this week, we asked the hip-hop community for their favorite memories of the smooth-rock queen.

Missy Elliott
Watching her sing "Smooth Operator" live! One of my favorite songs. She always sounds just like the record! I'm excited she's has a new album — that's my favorite moment, when I heard she was blessing us with her sound again!

Tajai, Souls of Mischief
When I was young, her record was one of the few my mom would play that I would enjoy, too. As a kid, I’d want her to turn off her music so I could hear LL Cool J or someone like that, but Sade and Luther Vandross were two records I dug, too. Sade transcends the age gap. I’ve never seen her live though I’ve always wanted to. I also remember hearing rumors that [famous drug dealer] Felix Mitchell would fly out to Paris to see her shows.

Don Will, Tanya Morgan
When I was a kid, my uncle would play a lot of Sade — she was one of his favorite artists. I wasn’t totally familiar with who Sade was at the time, but whenever he would play it I felt like I was traveling to a different place; it felt like a real experience ... I’m really excited to hear the new album. Her return is like the giant on the hill finally coming back down to visit the villagers.

Malice, Clipse
My favorite Sade moment was when Julie Knapp brought me into her office and showed me the album cover, and I was like, "She looks better than ever, her face, complexion, the body, the hair ... " Then Julie played the single and the voice was just as melodic, soothing, and hypnotizing as I had remembered. I guess God-given talent never misses a step. Guess who's back?

Pusha, Clipse
I remember being turned on to Sade by an older cousin I used to break dance with ... me still being young, [I] couldn't understand why in the hell he was listening to "old people music." He used to cook me steak-ums and play Sade on repeat!!!!!! After a summer of that, I was hooked ... Thanks, Why!!

Keri Hilson
My Dad would whistle Sade melodies randomly all the time. As a kid, I used to try to whistle along to "Cherish the Day" or "Sweetest Taboo." He was a real Sade fan and made me one, too! We couldn't be in his car even for five minutes without hearing her voice!

Joell Ortiz
I always think of the song "Ordinary Love" whenever someone brings up Sade, because that song came out around the time my dad bounced. After he left, my mom used to sit in her room, getting high while listening to "Ordinary Love" over and over again for weeks. That was saddest time of my young life. Whenever I hear that song, I well up with tears."

Rakim
I grew up on soul music, but when my pops introduced me to Sade just before Diamond Life hit, it was a revelation. That voice and her style just took out even the hardest hood at the knees. "Smooth Operator" may have been a smash for everyone worldwide, but that was my track, and you can catch me referencing what she was trying to get across from Paid in Full up to my new album. Being in the biz for about the same amount of time, I respect and try to emulate how she floats above the industry ... one of the few that can do things on her own terms, knowing her fans will watch out for her. To this day, she's one of the artists I can listen to with 100 percent admiration. I can't wait to get my hands on this album and congratulate her for continuing to build her already iconic place in the world.

Jah Jah, Ninja Sonik
Sade reminds me of Sunday afternoons at my mom's house when I was growing up ... my mom would blast her music and water the plants ... and dance in the living room ... I cant lie, the voice of Sade is amazingly godlike! POW!

Freeway
The music video for "By Your Side" ... I just think it was beautiful ... (that also happens to be my favorite Sade song) ... We hadn't heard from her in a while before that album, and she showed us she still had it.

Double O, Kidz in the Hall
For me, Sade is as important as MJ is to my musical youth. Before hip-hop permeated my life, my dad was obsessed with Sade, so I knew every word to Promise, Stronger Than Pride, and Love Deluxe. Sade reminds me of riding around Brooklyn stuck in the back of my parents' Nissan Maxima with my dad's Sade mixtapes.

Finale
"Cherish the Day" to the entire Lovers Rock album are still being played somewhere, and newborn babies, teenagers — even the grown folks — all over the world can thank Sade.

El-P
I was obsessed with Sade as a kid. The first two cassette tapes I bought myself were Run-DMC's first album and Diamond Life. As a kid listening to that album I was never sure if she was happy or sad. Her voice just had a hypnotic quality to it.

Talib Kweli
My favorite Sade memory is watching her perform Love Deluxe in its entirety at Madison Square Garden. The band (Sweetback) was so tight, and even though she left her spot at the mike only a couple of times, when she did she was so sexy it was magical. I learned a lot about precision that night. There was not a note or move out of place.

Kanye West
"THIS IS WHY I STILL HAVE A BLOG. TO BE A PART OF MOMENTS LIKE THIS ... NEW SADE ... HOW MUCH BETTER THIS THAN THAN EVERYTHING ELSE"

Photo: Debra L. Rothenberg/Retna