Raheem DeVaughn conducted by Janelle Harris  

Raheem DeVaughn Interview

August 2006

Somewhere in the south or west side of heaven, where all of the cool Black folks congregate, soul music royalty like Marvin, Otis, Donnie and Curtis are smiling down on Raheem Devaughn. This young brother's first major label release, "The Love Experience," is the contemporary glory of thinking, feeling, heartfelt R&B. Though he remains relatively humble (I repeat: relatively), Raheem is the carrier of the soul torch for the passion and intimacy that may have otherwise been lost with the too-soon deaths of R&B's late greats. He calls his sound a movement, and it's what definitively sets him above some of his fellow crooners who may have better marketing and better publicity, but fall short of the soulful sincerity that drives Raheem in the studio and on the stage. This year, neo-soul's golden boy prepares to release his sophomore effort, which hints at the shaping of his own musical legacy.

MVRemix: You just getting into the building [at Jive Records in NYC]?

Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, I am.

MVRemix: I actually saw your show in DC at Love back in December.

Raheem DeVaughn: When I was crowd surfing?

MVRemix: [Laughs] Yeah, you were crowd surfing. I didn't catch you, though. So what's up with a new studio album?

Raheem DeVaughn: It's done, but I'm just getting the cameos and paying people and mixing and all of that tedious stuff. It's what they call the love behind the melody.

MVRemix: What kind of cameos?

Raheem DeVaughn: Just different artists that I'm working with. I don't want to leak it too much out the bag. But you know, I've got one song in particular that's got Floetry on it that I wrote, that Kenny Dope produced. And I wrote the record and I want to get Marsha and Natalie on the record. They're in South Africa right now. So I'm waiting for them to get back-- as a matter of fact, they'll be back today. And we'll figure out when we can get in the lab and get it done.

MVRemix: So when will all of this "love behind the melody" wrap up?

Raheem DeVaughn: I don't know. The first record is still doing well and the single "You" is impacting radio really well. So we're going to ride that out right now definitely and then drop the second joint. Like I said, I've got Floetry. Sizzla is going to be on one joint, and then I'm doing a joint with Q-Tip.

MVRemix: How does being from DC influence your music? How does it influence your sound?

Raheem DeVaughn: That's my movement, that's my base, you know what I'm saying? Musically. So that's where I create most of my records and stuff, so in that aspect it's a lot of influences.

MVRemix: Did I hear you singing one time with Rare Essence? I thought I heard you one time--

Raheem DeVaughn: Probably so. You probably heard Backyard Band, a chorus that's floating around. And I just wrote a song with Chuck Brown, too, for his new album. It's real dope.

MVRemix: Alright. The Godfather.

Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, definitely.

MVRemix: What's missing from contemporary R&B and soul, in your opinion?

Raheem DeVaughn: I don't know. I wouldn't say anything is necessarily missing, you know what I'm saying? I think that it may be a lack of creativity.

MVRemix: Do you feel like-- back in the day it was Sam and Dave, it was Marvin [Gaye], it was Otis [Redding]. It was a whole lot of soulful people from those generations. Do you feel like we have that kind of versatility today?

Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, you have your Raheem Devaughns and Jill Scotts and Erykah Badus and stuff like that. But you can't fill the void of like Marvin Gaye or Bob Marley or Curtis Mayfield. You can't fill their voids. You can only kind of keep the torch burning and do what you do. You know, bring something, but it's still got to be new and fresh and innovative. So I definitely think we have our legends for these times that still jump off the box and stuff like that. Just doing it, not because it's cool to do it, but it's them doing it.

MVRemix: So then that leads into my next question-- what three people do you think have serious longevity? Besides yourself, obviously.

Raheem DeVaughn: As far as musicians or artists or-- ?

MVRemix: Musicians.

Raheem DeVaughn: I would say definitely Erykah Badu. She's probably one person. I don't know who else I want to put into the hat. But that's one I can go with right there.

MVRemix: OK. You say, "with dead weight, you can't travel light." How do you let go of bad experiences, bad relationships, bad people? Raheem Devaughn Interview

Raheem DeVaughn: I just keep it moving, you know what I'm saying? I go to God and ask Him to remove certain situations from around me that don't belong around me. But other than that, I don't hold on to it, I just kind of keep it moving.

MVRemix: When will you know when you have "arrived"?

Raheem DeVaughn: When will I know-- oh, I've already done that. I'm just establishing my ground and my space. I'm just marking my territory, marking this spot.

MVRemix: You're a huge Marvin fan, from what I hear. What have you learned from him and how is it evident in your music?

Raheem DeVaughn: I'm a fan of the fact that he took the opportunity in his music and his lyrics to talk about some stuff other than just himself or the typical lovemaking, 'baby please come back,' that whole thing. He took to the opportunity to say things.

MVRemix: So then how do you give back to the Black community? What are the issues that are your hot button issues that motivate you?

Raheem DeVaughn: I mean, I think I definitely give back with the consciousness, lyrical content. And then of course when I'm home, I'm out in the schools. I'm talking to the kids and I'm out doing fundraisers for whomever. I was just part of a fundraiser that raised $24,000 for the young lady, the burn victim whose husband set her on fire. So I'm always trying to find some way to be involved in what's going on in quote-unquote "my community."

MVRemix: Why do you say quote-unquote?

Raheem DeVaughn: I'm always out-- like I'm out in the 'hood, doing shows in the Bronx at 2:00 in the morning, at pool parties and stuff like that. [laughs]

MVRemix: So you mean community not physically, like DC?

Raheem DeVaughn: I mean in general, wherever. I'm in the 'hood in south London.

MVRemix: The world is your community.

Raheem DeVaughn: Right. You have certain artists that don't go out and impact, and go out and do the things that I've been doing.

MVRemix: How many times have you been in love?

Raheem DeVaughn: I fall in love everyday.

MVRemix: How many times have you been in love with a woman in a relationship from the time you were a little kid until now?

Raheem DeVaughn: I don't know. I haven't really given it much thought.

MVRemix: Well, can you finish this sentence then? My first experience with love made me realize that it is ________________.

Raheem DeVaughn: Priceless.

MVRemix: Why do you say that?

Raheem DeVaughn: Because you can't buy it. It doesn't have a price.

MVRemix: What did you do with your first check?

Raheem DeVaughn: Sent my mother on a trip and went to Europe.

MVRemix: Oh really? That's nice. So what was your goal when you got into the music industry? I know it probably wasn't for the money.

Raheem DeVaughn: Nah, I was in it for the gratification to get my message out. I enjoy making music, so whether or not I'm signed to a major, I'd still be doing what I'm doing. Maybe not on such a large scale, but I'd still be doing what I'm doing, though.

MVRemix: What's your creative process like?

Raheem DeVaughn: I work at night. I like to work in the late night. I don't write anything down. Sometimes I got out before I go to the studio. Sometimes there may be some muses there. And that's about it.

MVRemix: What are three qualities of a good woman?

Raheem DeVaughn: Three qualities of a good woman? Spiritual, giving and understanding.

MVRemix: OK. What are three qualities of a good man? Like what should a good woman therefore look for in a man?

Raheem DeVaughn: Strength, honesty and hustle.

MVRemix: Hustle?

Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah.

MVRemix: What's the most fulfilling thing about what you do?

Raheem DeVaughn: The sincerity that I see when I interact with the kids.

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