Having been away from the mainstream most of his career, singer Raheem DeVaughn is an artist that has a very exclusive following. His fans love him for the sexy, yet glorifying way he praises women in many of his songs. He’s managed to work with some of the greatest in hip-hop as the genre has played a huge role in the success of his career, but he’s always remained true to his R&B roots. When Raheem Devaughn stopped in Houston on his Love N’Soul Experience Tour back in November, he sat down with me to share what’s it’s like being in the industry for 10 years, what he’s doing to keep R&B ahead of the game, and how this tour is very special for him.
You’ve been doing music since 2005. How has the music game changed since coming into this industry?
“Music has changed tremendously. The way you market it, the way you sell it, the way you brand it, the content. I think we’re in the most ratchet states of music ever right now. It’s a pro and con to that because the music has become more explicit or people speak their mind, say whatever they want on a record. It gets a little tricky with the disrespect to the women. R&B used to be like a culture where it was a flyness. You used to look to the R&B singers, they were suave. Those were the guys that wowed the ladies and now it’s totally changed. On a record you hear women called bitches, hoes, and thots. It’s almost like we sit at the crib and think what’s the most disrespectful thing I can say on a record. Is that how you would address your mama? Is that how you would address your daughter? No pun intended, but we call our daughters ‘royalty’ and ‘queen.’”
How do you plan to bring back R&B and the suaveness?
“I’m doing it! I’m doing me. A sold out show tonight, or any given night is a reflection of that. It’s a diverse audience. I’m getting that younger crowd. I remember when we were in Norfolk, and a sister came through with her mother. She was 19, it was her birthday, she had tears in her eyes. She’d been to many concerts but she said she’d been listening to me since she was nine. She in love with me, and her mama in love with me, and I think it’s for all the right reasons. Anything else is hereditary. All of the traits passed down are hereditary. It’s really just for me to stand firm and do what I do. There’s young ladies out there that’s seeking that type of material. They want to be nurtured. Young men that want to know how to treat a lady, or wow a lady.”
Your career really took off through the mixtape culture that many rappers and hip-hop artists used. Why did you decide to go that route when it came to putting out your music?
“I was the first R&B/ Soul artist to make mixtapes. We’re talking over 10 years ago. I saw it as a great way to market and promote myself. I was frustrated with label at the time that I was signed to which was Jive Records, also known as RCA now. I did my first deal back in 2002 so I felt like I needed a way to connect with people I was trying to connect with and the mixtapes was what was popping. If you had a hot mixtape then you was hot for rappers, so I really just took what the rappers did and adapted to what I did and moved like a rapper in the sense of the way I promoted it and market it. Twenty-something mixtapes later, I stopped counting after 15 – 20. I have Street Experience Volume 1 through 6. Then I flipped it to something else and I had a tape called Blue Magic around the time Jay-Z dropped American Gangster. Then I started doing exclusive. Snoop hosted Destination Loveland. I kinda got bored with it then I got torn with it like maybe the mixtapes just ain’t it no more. Just to celebrate the mark of 2016 and a decade of music, I am going to start putting out a lot of free music again.”
My favorite is “Single.” How do you decide what songs you’re going to cover and sample from?
“That’s easy! It’s about what’s popping and what’s hot. And that was popping and that was hot, but I definitely made it more popping and hotter on my end. That record and that video changed my life and my career. It made me sexy for the woman that might’ve looked at it, or the youngin’ that might’ve looked at it and thought ‘he’s dope, he’s a gentleman.’ I am a gentleman, but gentlemen can be sexy, that can be tastefully ratchet at times.”
Who are some of your musical influences? People that you aspire to be like and pull your music from?
“Marvin Gaye, Prince. Prince could’ve been considered ratchet in the 80s. He had his butt cheeks out on stage and he was liable to say anything out his mouth on stage or on record. A slew of hip-hop artists, believe it or not. I love the culture of hip-hop and I love music so it’s interesting to see where it’s at now and where it’s going to be 10 years from now, or five years from now.”
You have the Love Life Foundation. Did you do anything special with your organization during this stop in Houston?
“I pampered over 25 women from the city. We took over a spa, we partnered with local organizations here, for women in transition or shelters. They came out beautiful. [They] did a runway, red carpet, makeover fashion show for me when I walked in. It was dope. These are women who come from very violent, domestic violence situations here in [Houston]. What I’m doing with the foundation and with my brand is creating the awareness and the spark for change, not only in the black community but period, for something that is treated so taboo and is often overlooked until we turn on the news the next day and see women on the news murdered, households broken up, kids are ward-of –the-state, father incarcerated or dead. We hit the ground running. We got 44 states to go.”
What can fans expect for tonight’s show?
“You can expect panties to be thrown on stage, folks screaming, some folks crying. Hopefully nobody passes out. It gets provocative and racy at times. It’s a lesson on love, sex, passion from a man’s perspective.”
Are you working on anything? What can fans expect from you next?
“I have an artist, Chaz French, who we just did a partnership with a major distribution company in L.A. We got Chaz French coming out. We got Feel All Day doing some collaboration stuff with Wale. I’ve had an album in the can with Snoop for some time now, trying to figure out what’s going to happen with that. It’s Soul-Hop. Another group that I brought out is called Crossroads. I’m looking to possibly put some of that stuff out at the top of the year with a brother named West Felton. We’re looking to hopefully hit the college sector with that and do some lecturing on the culture of hip-hop and hip-hop influence and see the world and perform too. 6tI got two albums already in the can, recorded for my project. No release dates. I don’t what I’m going to title the sixth album yet, but it’s done.”