Arin Ray is a Cincinnati native who was first introduced to the scene during his X-Factor days in 2012. Writing songs for artists such as Chris Brown, John Legend, Rick Ross, and even having background vocals on Nicki Minaj’s “Favorite” record off the Pinkprint album. Signed to Interscope Records, Arin dropped his debut studio album Platinum Fire which is still a fan favorite with songs like “Reckless,” ”We Ain’t Homies” and more. Arin, has continued to evolve as an artist, showcasing his R&B and soul influences through his heartfelt lyrics and smooth melodies. His music resonates with listeners, touching on themes of love, relationships, and personal growth. 

Arin joins EBONY for a conversation about his new EP Phases III which is out now and the effect that conversations about being “underrated” have on him.

Compared to your last project Hello Poison in 2022 and this new EP Phase III, how was the recording process since previously mentioning you are showing less emotion in this project?

Arin Ray: The difference between the process with this one and the last, it's tremendously different honestly. I wasn't trying to make an EP at first; that wasn't the plan, the plan was to get some music out. It turned into an EP. It turned into phases. We had some songs that we liked from the “Hello Poison” era that we kept up and made that work. For the recording process I usually don't work with a lot of writers or producers hands on like that. I did that for this project with some great producers and writers that inspired me, you got Tricky Stewart, you got James Fauntleroy, and The Dream. It's a lot of people who helped me on this project, especially when I went down to Atlanta.

Arin Ray. Image: Tim Mosenfelder for Getty Images

“All your favorite artists like me, everybody listens. They all know me and I’m very respected in the game.”

Arin Ray

Conversations about being “slept on” or “underrated” are frequent in the music industry. How do you feel when people say "Arin Ray doesn't get the credit he deserves and should be in the mass R&B conversation?" 

I think the underrated vibe, I feel like, that's my fault. I don't really put that on anybody or anything else. I'm very to myself. So a lot of these guys, they do things to put themselves in the eye of the people stirrup confrontation, or they got a girlfriend that everybody likes. I'm a very private person. So me opening myself up and being more vulnerable. I feel like I will kind of help and then show people how I do my thing. Just more as the artist and less as a heartthrob, or the sex symbol, whatever they want to call me the lightskin, a pretty boy, whatever it is, I really get down. It’s just really letting them into my life. All your favorite artists like me, everybody listens, they all know me and I’m very respected in the game. I'm not somebody who's just always in front, if I take those steps slowly but gradually give the world more and just let y'all in my life. Yeah, I wouldn't be really underrated. 

Last year on Instagram Live you were expressing to fans how you felt about life and possibly giving up music. What helped you get through that time to get back into a good space mentally?  

Pushing through it, man, understanding my goal and what I'm here for which is making sure my son is cool. Making sure, I'm putting food on the table for my son. With this music thing it goes day after day for me. Somedays "I'm cool on it," that's because making a song is easy for me. It's not about making the music, it's about the business. The team, and what you have to do to get up there. That's a lot if you're not ready for it and you're not that type of person who wants people in your business. I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio, I don't care for people to look at me and follow me every day. I do understand when you're building community and you want to share that with people, you gotta build that. Honestly, there's a lot of talk going on about how R&B ain't it. I'm not even R&B to me personally, I make whatever I want, I do what I want, I do how I want. I never just made straight R&B or traditional R&B. I always give you something different and mix genres. It's really a lot of talk about how male artists are not really doing no justice. I'm like, "Look, no further. I got you!" 

As far as mental health goes, that's an everyday battle, and I'm working on that. All I'm trying to do is really just stay locked in. Try not to respond to the negativity because it's always going to be something out there that's messing with you, always going to be something out there that's testing you and you gotta be stronger than that.

Your new single, “Wait So Long,” is produced by Tricky Stewart ,who produced plenty of hits for a lot of artists. How was it working with him on your new single? 

It was beautiful, man. Honestly, we spent about three to five days with him. Just to see the process of how they work and how calm they are. A stress free environment. It was almost like a spa. We get massages, it's crazy, it's a good vibe, great energy just to be around people with them type of accolades, and just the energy and knowing how to make a hit record definitely helped me and my confidence. Because this time that's what I really did, just listen to these guys like, you want me to do this, bet I'm banging these out, we can write it how we want to write it.

You’re a father to a first grader now. How exciting has that journey been so far? 

It's just cool, man because he's so smart I got a little mini me running around and he loves school. So I'm just excited for him. He's so excited about life and I love his approach. I love how happy he is, I wish I could be more like him honestly, in a lot of ways, just that true happiness and like, "I love my family, I love my life" and he teaches me a lot on an everyday basis. That's what's really keeping me in the right mindset because I see how I was as a kid and I see what I could do for him. He's literally about to be seven years old. It's crazy. I'm 28, and I was 21 when I had him so time flies and it's the greatest thing I could ask for, well God gave me so you know, I'm appreciative and I'm grateful for him and Fatherhood is everything.

Some people don't know you provided the vocals on Nicki Minaj feat. Jeremih song “Favorite” by in 2014. How did that come about?

So Yung Berg, or "Hitmaka", is my big bro. I worked with him a lot coming into the game when I really started getting my stripes and I'm writing for Chris Brown, writing for everybody. That's who really put me in the real rooms. So we were working on the "Pinkprint" with Jeremih. I was just coming back into the studio every day and they had "Favorite" loaded up I'm like, "what is that?". Hitmaka told me to get in the booth, so I go do my vocals and then next thing you hear is Nicki Minaj and it’s a smash. A crazy time, man. I wish I got credit or whatever but it's love. It's a cool thing to be able to say "I'm on a Nicki Minaj project" like, she's one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest female rapper of all time and that's one of the hardest projects she has dropped. Shout out to Hitmaka "you put me in rooms that I never would have gotten myself in” especially at that time and yeah, man. It all worked out for the best shoutout to Nicki, Jeremih. Shout out to everybody. Yeah, it was a good time.